Think for a minute about the visuals you read or write in your life. I made a quick list, and it included diagrams, figures, maps, menus, labels, captions, charts, schedules, timelines, and graphs. Then I scanned through my house and office to find text materials that included something more than words and letters. I found magazines, newspapers, ads, food containers, manuals, cards, and catalogs. Then, there’s what I can see on television and the Internet. We truly are surrounded by visuals, and it’s important for our students to understand how to interpret what they see.
One of the lessons that surprised my students was on advertising. I showed them a range of magazine ads about smoking, and we discussed what they saw. Their initial responses revolved around how pretty, handsome, successful, and happy the people appeared to be. That led to a discussion of advertising techniques and propaganda. Students quickly realized that it’s important to look beneath the surface to determine the real meaning of ads.
I was recently in Lynn Kelley’s classroom, where she did a similar activity. After teaching types of propaganda, her students created videos demonstrating the various techniques. As she said, “I think they will remember it when they see a question on the state test because they had to create their own examples.”