Visual Literacy – A Universal Language?

Visual literacy is explained as the ability to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use and create images and visual media.  (New Media Literacies , 2015).

Visual literacy, through the use of images, is a powerful language that can be considered universal. Even if individuals don’t know how to converse in english, they can participate in information that uses images and visual tools.

People can use one image and show it to people all over the globe and despite each individual having their own interpretation based on their unique experiences, they will each be able to understand the visual image rather than being confused or lost when looking at it.

Images and their interpretation doesn’t need to be taught because it has no words from different languages. Instead it is a common picture that allows the viewer to interpret it as their own. Explicit messages can be picked up by everyone most of the time, however, due to their individuality, people can find messages within the visual contexts based on how they see it.

Images and visual literacy is something that is very commonly used in my grade 2 classroom.

Just last week, the teacher posted an image of a simple machine and before introducibng the new science unit, we asked the children to look at the picture and describe what they see. They were allowed to say any word, any message, any idea that came to their mind and we wrote it all down on chart paper.

Without giving them a lesson we allowed them to interpret this image in their own words, using their own ideas.

The children, as well as us, were surprised to see what our peers came up with.

Things that we didn’t see were brought up by others. The image also had one clear message that everyone understood regardless of their background,language skills, thinking abilities – the fact that this was a bike.

This helped understand the power of images because everyone could participate regardless of their fluency in english. They were verbally able to explain in their own words – what the image meant to them.

Visual literacy then, can be used in many different ways as a universal language to find a common ground amongst individuals who all come from very diverse backgrounds!

a simple, yet powerful example.


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