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Visual Literacy in the Secondary Classroom
What is Visual Literacy?

­­­Visual Literacy is "the ability to construct meaning from visual images" (Giorgis, Johnson, Bonomo, Colbert, et al., 1999). When we are able to interact with information through visualization, we are better able to attend and capture the information. Using visual literacy assists with memory recall and helps reinforce language-based information we store in our memory.

Why use it during instruction?

Visual literacy can be used as a form of differentiation, more specifically, as an approach to compacting important chunks of the curriculum. Our culture is dependent upon the use of visual literacy skills as a means of mass communication. Signs, diagrams, and logos are prevalent in our society; using visual literacy in the classroom serves to only enhance understanding.

Where should we begin?

Incorporating visual literacy into instruction is a gradual process. The ultimate goal of visual literacy is to connect perceptions, conceptions, and visual and linguistic vocabulary together as a means of deepening understanding of a concept. Visual literacy is a social experience and students learn more when they reflect and discuss with others.

First, have the students spend two minutes looking at the image above. Instruct them that the words are not the focus at the moment. Simply have them study the image.

Second, have students discuss the syntax of the image. The syntax is the structure of the actual image itself. For the sample image above, the syntax is that of a flag waving in the sky with a quote by John F. Kennedy, Jr.   Probe the students by asking, "What does the structure tell us?" Or "What symbols do you see that suggest this quote might be important?"

Third, have the students discuss the semantics of the image. The semantics are the context of the image and how that shapes the actual syntax of the message itself. For the sample image above, the semantics include a waving flag and use of color. Probe the students by asking, "How does the semantic context affect your interpretation of the quote?"

Finally, engage the students in a process called "recomposing." Recomposing occurs when we receive information in one format and express the meaning in another. Since this is an image, students could discuss or write the message being conveyed. In using visual literacy, we often have students draw a visual representation of what they have independently read. Diagrams and graphic organizers, when used for summarization, also support visual literacy in the classroom also.

For more information, check out these resources in the TTAC at VCU library:

Linder, R. (2014). Chart sense: Common sense charts to teach 3-8 informational text and literature

Linder, R. (2014). Chart sense for writing: Over 70 common sense charts with tips and strategies to teach 3-8 writing

Moline, S. (2012). I see what you mean: visual literacy K-8

White Paper - Visual Literacy

Giorgis, C., Johnson, N.J.,  Bonomo, A., Colbert, C., & et al., (1999). Visual Literacy. Reading Teacher, 53(2),146-153.

Consider Teaching a Learning Strategy for Writing
teacher-students-college.jpgThe Standards of Learning for English require students to master persuasive writing so they can communicate their viewpoints effectively as learners, employees, and citizens. As educators, we agree, but the challenge is daunting. What can we do? First we must analyze the specific challenges facing our students. Some do not know what skilled writing looks like. Others cannot get their thoughts organized. Many students lose track of where they are in the process and engage in negative self-talk. Self-regulated strategy development (SRSD) can be applied to address all of these concerns and more.
SRSD is one of the research-based practices that we know changes both how students write and the quality of their products (Bassett Berry & Mason, 2012; Kiuhara, O'Neill, Hawken, & Graham, 2012; Mason, Kubina, Valasa, & Cramer, 2010; Mason, Kubina, & Taft, 2009; Monroe & Troia, 2006; Chalk, Hagan-Burke, & Burke, 2005). When students follow the five steps of SRSD, they see models of how skilled writers think, learn through practice with the teacher, and gain a sense of self-efficacy by setting and achieving writing goals. The five steps are:  
  1. Discuss the strategy with students and obtain buy-in with a signed contract.
  2. Model the strategy for students using think-alouds ("I do, we do, you do").
  3. Help students memorize the strategy using a mnemonic and track performance ("I do, we do, you do").
  4. Provide students with opportunities to use the strategy while gradually fading supports and track performance ("I do, we do, you do").
  5. Recognize students for independently using the strategy and track performance ("I do, we do, you do").
Instruction in the writing process has taken many forms, but SRSD is unique in its focus on self-regulation. Goal setting, scaffolded instruction, memorization, self-monitoring, and self-reinforcement are key steps of the process. Implemented effectively, these steps can genuinely change a student's ability to write.
Teaching SRSD requires a few things to ensure success. We have to understand all steps of the process. We have to commit to teaching them the way learners need to learn them. Most of all, we have to find a way to get started. A good place to start is the IRIS Center's free online professional development module, " Improving writing performance: A strategy for writing persuasive essays."
Check out these references to learn more!

Bassett Berry, A., & Mason, L. (2012). The effects of self-regulated strategy development on the writing of expository essays for adults with written expression difficulties: Preparing for the GED. Remedial and Special Education, 33(2), 124-136. doi: 10.1177/0741932510375469

Chalk, J., Hagan-Burke, S., & Burke, M. (2005). The effects of self-regulated strategy development on the writing process for high school students with learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 28, 76-87.

Kiuhara, S., O'Neill, R., Hawken, L., & Graham, S. (2012). The effectiveness of teaching 10th grade students STOP, AIMS, and DARE for planning and drafting persuasive text. Exceptional Children, 78(3), 335-355.

Mason, L.H., Kubina, R.M., & Taft, R.J. (2011). Developing quick writing skills of middle school students with disabilities. Journal of Special Education, 44(4), 205-220. doi: 10.1177/0022466909350780

Mason, L.H., Kubina, R.M., Valasa, L.L., & Cramer, A.M. (2010). Evaluating effective writing instruction for adolescent students in an emotional and behavior support setting. Behavioral Disorders, 35(2), 140-156.

Monroe, B.W., & Troia, G.A. (2006). Teaching writing strategies to middle school students with disabilities. The Journal of Educational Research, 100(1), 21-33.

Division of Early Childhood Recommends Practices for Enhancing Services to Young Children with Disabilities and Their Families

The above video narrated by Mary McLean, the Chair of the Division of Early Childhood (DEC) Recommended Practices Commission, provides an overview of the new DEC Recommended Practices. To download a copy of the Recommended Practices, visit the DEC website.

The Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center website offers many tools such as checklists, practice guides, online modules, and illustrations to  translate practice to practical application for practitioners.

TTAC Welcomes New Program Specialist

The T/TAC at VCU is excited to welcome Joel Fravel as a Program Specialist in elementary curriculum and instruction. Joel earned his undergraduate degree in elementary education, grades K-9, from State University of New York at Cortland and his graduate degree in administration and supervision from University of Virginia.  Joel's teaching career includes over 15 years in elementary inclusive classrooms.

VDOE's Training and Technical Assistance Center at VCU
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Richmond, VA 23284-3081