If a picture is worth a thousand words, can you imagine all of the stories that some of the pictures around us tells?

When students are able to fully “read” images, they can understand beyond the text and delve deeply into the author’s or the creator’s message.

Imagine close reading, but instead of text, they’re examining images. Visual literacy encompasses the ability to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media.
The beauty of visual literacy is that it opens the door for other language standards to be woven into your lessons, and it accommodates all learners from nursery to secondary school.

What is visual literacy?

Visual Literacy is being aware of how we experience images, video, and other forms of multimedia. Images must be evaluated in a similar way to written texts.  Like text, images can be used accurately, deliberately, misleadingly or carelessly. Some images, like texts, can be interpreted in different, sometimes contradictory, ways.

Visual literacy is not just restricted to art history and film studies it is important for everyone. Maps can show geographical information much better than a verbal or textual description. Charts and graphs can clearly describe the growth or decline of population, financial performance of a company, etc. Cartoons can sum up a viewpoint or opinion.

Visual literacy is a set of abilities that enables an individual to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media. Visual literacy skills equip a learner to understand and analyze the contextual, cultural, ethical, aesthetic, intellectual, and technical components involved in the production and use of visual materials. A visually literate individual is both a critical consumer of visual media and a competent contributor to a body of shared knowledge and culture.

How do you know You vsually literate?

A visually literate person is someone who can:

1 Determine the nature and extent of the visual materials needed
2 Find and access needed images and visual media effectively and efficiently
2 Interpret and analyze the meanings of images and visual media
4 Evaluate images and their sources
5 Use images and visual media effectively
6 Design and create meaningful images and visual media
7 Understand many of the ethical, legal, social, and economic issues surrounding the creation and use of images and visual media, and access and use visual materials ethically.

Which one do you have as a skill 🤔

As a young child, I developed my visual literacy skills early on. When I was in grade school, my eyes gravitated to posters in the classroom. I loved seeing posters on the walls full of color, pictures, or drawings. I would often try to sketch what I saw on the posters and add them to my worksheets. It was a way for me to make deeper connections to my learning. If illustrations had an effect on my learning as a kid, then they could also have a significant impact on my students when incorporated as part of daily instruction.


Facial expressions
Focal point

  1. Facial expressions: Ask students to look at the characters’ face, eyes, mouth, and eyebrows and identify what mood or feeling the characters are expressing.

You can start by showing students pictures of different facial expressions or have the students act them out.

Give this a try

Focal point: Ask students, “Where is the center of activity or attention? Where are the character’s eyes looking? As the reader, where are your eyes going first and then resting?”

Illustrators often play with scale and proportion to draw attention to a certain part of the image for a specific reason. Differences in scale can show power and authority, or submissiveness and vulnerability.

Gestures: Encourage students to examine the movement or position of the character’s body and how it conveys emotion.

Are the characters standing or sitting? What’s the action or pose of the character’s body? Students can make observations about the characters’ hands, arms, shoulders, torso, and feet.

Gestures can show a character’s personality or emotional state at different points in the story.

Clothing: Ask students if the clothes that characters are wearing give clues to their traits or their role in the story.

Are they in uniform? Students can think about what clothing might tell them about the characters’ daily life or job. Students can also see if there are connections between the clothing and the setting.

Setting: Have students identify where the story is taking place. What’s in the background of the image or illustration? Is the illustration showing a particular time of day or season?

They can look for things that may identify a specific region, continent, or country. The time and place in which a story occurs will affect the plot, so any clues that students can get from the illustrations will help them better understand the content as readers.

Objects: Objects are the other things that enhance the illustrations and give clues to understanding various story elements such as character traits and motivation, setting, problem, and solution. In addition to looking at the object, look at the color, size, and quantity.

An object could be something that the character is holding or something else within the picture. Perhaps it’s a suitcase in the character’s hand that tells us they’re going on a trip or a bicycle that a little girl is riding to school that tells you she lives close by.


Images product a powerful impact. They convey information, emotion, and attitude. Visual information like images:

Create understanding quickly. As a result, they’re excellent tools for communication.

Provide meaning for second-language learners who often know a word or concept in their native language but not in the language they are learning.

Serve as a communication device among groups of people. Consider how popular memes have become.

Provide enjoyment., especially when students understand how design and color can be applied to develop meaning.

Stimulate deeper learning. Students who can analyze texts and images are less likely to be manipulated because they interpret what they read and see from multiple perspectives.

Ultimately, people tend to remember images longer. Students who learn how to interpret visual information can make their way through a complex world vying for their attention.

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