Saturday, 29 October 2016

Teaching Visual Text - Static Images, An Introduction

View From The School

Here in the sunny Cook Islands, I am volunteering at a local school teaching secondary English and Drama. For my English composite class of year 9 and 10 I have started teaching Visual Texts (also known as Static Images) as I feel that this could be a good assignment for their last term. Next year, some of them will start NCEA (National Certificate of Education Achievement - the New Zealand Curriculum). Thus, I wanted to prepare them for next year but also it is a great opportunity for them to contextualize their current short story of study : On The Sidewalk Bleeding by Evan Hunter.

What is a visual text? (Static Image) According to Studyit.org , a New Zealand website for students. 

"Visual text uses a combination of visual features (camera shots, still pictures, and graphics) and verbal features (words, dialogue and language features) to get a message across to the audience. Your teacher will select either part of a class text that you have not studied closely or another visual text (complete or extract) such as: film, television production, music video, drama production, multimedia text, graphic novel, documentary."

Moreover, we couldn't simply make a visual text about the short story without understanding what a visual text is and more importantly, what makes a visual text effective. Breaking it all down into key terms and vocabulary. I decided to create a Powerpoint that has interactive activities within it, as well as a review of the basic elements most visual texts should have. I used this PowerPoint over 3 separate classes.

You are able to download my PPT from my TeachersPayTeachers Profile.

Slide Previews:

Vocab Jumble 
A literacy strategy to get them thinking, before even stating the topic... great for any topic and just about any subject! Also a good icebreaker /warm up. 

  • Show them the words on screen.
  •  Read aloud to the class to let them hear the correct pronunciation. 
  • Turn screen off. Tell them to write as many as they can remember down. (You may choose to warn them that they need to write from memory, before switching the screen off). 
  • After about 1-2 minutes, ask students how many words they have remembered, tell them the total amount of words is 14. 
  • Tell them that they may work with a partner to find all 14 words.
  • Reward if anyone can get all 14 (Optional). 
  • Reveal words and discuss. What a words they do know? What a words they don't? Share meanings? Ask about the levels - Why do you think these words are separated into 2 levels?
  • Ask, finally - What do you think we will study? (There is no correct answer, but instead this activity gets them thinking about the topic). 



Next, after introducing the topic we started to discuss the definition, examples and then moved onto my "break it down" part 1 - Font.


I found a cool article online about font and an experiment they did with fonts, Baskerville, Georgia and Comic Sans. They found that people would find Baskerville a more trustworthy font than the others, Georgia and Comic Sans. "Why Baskerville? Cornell University professor David Dunning thinks Baskerville has a British sense of formality and solemnity that enhances its credibility."

I asked the students to look at the fonts and think about which font they would trust more if it , for example, was used to write down scientific facts, etc. I asked some discussion leading questions about the importance of font. I had brought in some examples of static image and asked them to look at the font used, and asked what they thought of the importance of font to a static image.

After introducing font, I next did a worksheet about fonts and matching them to different words and uses. It was a great activity to get them thinking about the use of fonts and how they can be appropriate for different things. I got it from Assessment Resource Banks.nzcer , it's a great site to register with for resources.

Worksheet Preview:



Following the font activity was our colour break down. It would pay to know some facts about colours and their meanings. For example, Purple is often associated to royalty because in the past it was the most expensive colour to make. A great website to take a browse of is Color-meanings.com.

However, before you impress with colour facts, I have 2 activities to complete in the PowerPoint. One is a quick quiz to see if they can guess the world's favourite colour, the other is a colour association activity to get them thinking about colour meanings and significance.


Get the students to match the colour to the meanings (in white on the left). Discuss reasons why the colours associate with the meanings - there are no real 'wrong' answers, but you can guess which colours are appropriate for each. (Answers in slide). Ask lots of questions - "Why do you think pink is associated to childishness? Why do you think black associates to mystery?"

By the time I got to colours I was done with 1 lesson, the next slides I did in our next lesson (lesson 2).

After the colour break down I moved on to symbols (there are some challenges/activities about symbols for the students included in the PPT) and next 'breaking down layout', which features a hands on activity. The slides go over the meaning of layout and you should discuss importance...then do a hands on activity.

You must print out a quote, 2 images and a title from the internet all based on a film, TV show or book. Do this 4 times or for how many groups you can make in your class.  It's good to use films they know. Here are my sets:


To practice the importance of layout, I asked them to cut out their images and quotes then in their group they must design a movie poster and have reasons for why they chose to position certain images and words. I gave them coloured paper to stick their images and quotes on and each group came to the front of the class to present. It was a great way for them to see how different layout styles lead to different effects and to hear them attempt analysis of their own images. An example is included in the PPT.

Following the layout break down I have many example static images to discuss with the students. You can note the colour, symbols, layout and more - discussing significance and reviewing vocabulary they have learnt.

My third and final lesson with this PPT - Some important vocabulary.

The slides for lesson 3 are filled with more Static Image examples but also some more vocabulary to help them with further analysis. It includes definitions for you to go over and discuss with your class while viewing examples.


Overall the 3 lessons were a brilliant and successful way to introduce Static Image/ Visual Text to my students and get them thinking and using new vocabulary. Our next lesson, creating a Static Image!

Hope this was helpful,

Happy Teaching!

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