Can You Read the Pictures?

Photo Credit: Lucia Whittaker via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Lucia Whittaker via Compfight cc

In many cases, Kindergarten is where we learn how to read. How do we teach young students to read? If you’re not working with young students, here is a pretty common conversation that happens in almost every Kindergarten classroom at the beginning of the school year:

T: Can you read this book to me?

S: I can’t read read!

T: Yes, you can! You can look at the pictures and tell me what is happening.

Before we even learn how to interpret letters into words, we are already interpreting images and making meaning. It is only logical then, that this is how we begin to teach students how to read.

Images and media fill our lives every day. From what makes us stop to watch something when we’re flipping through channels, to how we choose which links to click on our Facebook feed, or even how we decide whether or not to walk into a shop. All these things are influenced by visual literacy, the way we interpret pictures, images, and objects around us. As defined by Stokes (2002), visual literacy is not just about consumption, but also the ability to “generate images for communicating ideas and concepts”. In our daily lives we both interpret and generate images in the hopes of communicating through a wide variety of possible media.

Choices…Choices…

Reading through the scenario that introduces Hobbs’ (1996) article, where a teacher discusses a television commercial with the students, I began thinking about how I ask my students to use a variety of tools to create images on a daily basis. But am I teaching them how to make choices about the message they want to send? Am I teaching them how to make choices when using images? The answer is, if I was, I wasn’t doing it consciously!

Luckily for me, I have a lesson planned for the first grade classes which involves the use of Hakiu Deck. This fell perfectly into the theme for this week’s assignment because Haiku Deck makes use of Creative Commons images. First grade is currently covering a science unit on the different states of matter (solid, liquid and gas). The goal of this lesson is to allow students to demonstrate their learning by creating a short slideshow of examples of these three states of matter. Seems simple enough right? It then occurred to me that I was about to ask 6 year-olds to try and make appropriate image choices out of all the images that will be produced each time they did a search! I realized that we needed to have a discussion before they were set free to search Creative Commons images on their own.

Wood is a Solid

I hope to introduce this lesson by showing my own Haiku Deck presentation first. I made four slides, all with the same text:

Wood is a solid.

 

On each slide the key search word was “wood”. Here is the slideshow:


Wood is a solid. – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

I tried to put myself in a 6 year-old’s shoes and think about what would make me choose a picture, especially if I had suddenly gotten distracted by all the cool images that just appeared before me. I could imagine many students choosing the images of flowers and butterflies that appeared so I put one of those into a slide. I could also imaging some students choosing the image of the tiger lying on pieces of wood simply because there’s a tiger in it, so that image went in. Finally, I chose two images that could both portray the meaning in the text accurately, but perhaps drew on different emotions.

I hope to show these to the students and ask them to tell me which image they think is the one that illustrates the words best and why. I’m also hoping that we have a discussion about things such as…

  • Making sure that the image features what the message is in the text (the focus of the picture is the focus of the text)
  • What kinds of images will make people want to look at their presentation
  • How different images, even if they are of the same things, can evoke different feelings

Hopefully, I’ll be able to collect some good quotes from the first graders on what sorts of things influence visual literacy. I am also hoping that in an extension of the lesson, students will get to practice commenting on each other’s blogs, as this Haikdu Deck piece is going on their student blogs. This way the conversation can continue and they can share with each other their thoughts and feelings on their peers’ image choices.

I will hopefully have some good things to update this blog post with by the end of the week!

Update: October 19th 2014

Well, I successfully taught this lesson to all six first grade classes at my school and I am very glad that I introduced them to the task with my own presentation first. As predicted there were students who chose the flower photo and the tiger photo because they thought they were “pretty” or “cool”. Many were able to justify the tiger photo by saying that there was still wood in the picture. As the discussion went on, each class came to similar conclusions, that there were two possible options, the second photo and the last photo. We talked about the emotions that the two photos drew upon and why they thought one might be better than the other. There were some interesting answers:

I think [photo 4] is better because there is more wood in it than the other one.

The second one makes me feel happy becuse it’s like a park and the trees are alive. The last one the trees are cut down.

I like the last one because I think it’s scary and I want my audience to be scared! It’s cool!

For watever reason, we all decided that one or the other would be an appropriate choice. I made this poster (using Canva.com) to go on a display board outside my lab. These ended up being the three main questions that we all decided we should ask ourselves before we chose a photo.

By the way, Canva has now come out with an iPad app! I can’t wait to use it with my kiddos!

Student Examples:


Ben P(Barrus) – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires


Isabella(Morris) – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires


Milton (Walter) – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

6 thoughts on “Can You Read the Pictures?”

  1. I still enjoy using books without words to get students to write. In middle school, I use it for teaching dialogue. Two years ago I used Pixar shorts. The students had to create actual dialogue as well as an internal dialogue. It was leading into them writing a short story of their own. I noticed that you work with K-2 students. How else are incorporating visual literacy or digital technology for those grades?

    • Hi Terea, thanks for visiting my COETAIL blog 🙂 Well, the students created their own Haiku Decks this week. I’m hoping to add a few examples to this post as an update so check back soon! I also recently created photo headers with the second graders using Canva.com. They all had to go through their class photo collection and select photos that they thought could represent their second grade journey. In Kindergarten and Pre K we start with just learning to use the camera on the iPad and Macs to take photos and learn about composition, how to focus and not get too close or too far.

  2. Hi Pana, Thank you for sharing this. I immediately connected with the first part of your post. I teach kindergarten and we spend a good part of the first semester just “reading” the pictures. It is such an important part of not only their ability to think and share about a text, but we also connect it to our writing. Like “reading”, a lot of the students are not writing words yet, but they can certainly share a fantastic story through their illustrations and oral story telling. I really love your use of Haiku Deck with your students. It is visually pleasing and I can see the students really enjoying not only seeing the ones you’ve created, but creating ones of their own. I’m inspired to think of ways to integrate this into my own classroom. I’m hoping to inspire my own students in thinking more deeply about the visual images we encounter everyday.

    • I’m glad that my post helped to inspire you to use images in your teaching too! I’ve done this lesson with the first grade classes now and some have started to create their own Haiku Decks. I’m impressed with the choices they have made for each of their slides! I highly recommend Haiku Deck for students and adults!

  3. Hey Pana!

    This post makes me think of a fellow teacher’s after school activity where the kids could choose a song and create their own music video for it using images that they found online.
    Your Haiku Deck lesson strikes me in a number of ways. First, it’s cool that the kids are using creative commons for your lessons and that they are respecting others’ work! Gotta get them started early eh? Second, I think you’ve chosen a powerful way to get kids to think about the messages and images around them by putting them in the producer’s chair.

    For my friend’s club, I feel like there was a lost teaching opportunity – the music videos were filled with “cool pictures” of animals, dinosaurs and kittens…that had nothing to do with the music. It’s so valuable to teach kids to reflect on their message and create with it in mind because it will help them be better readers, writers, and consumers (and producers!) of content around them in these developing years. I’m inspired!

    ps. are you still thinking of putting some of the kids’ work up?

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