L2.014 Visual Literacy

Visual Literacy: the Overlooked Skill


Visual literacy is the “ability to interpret, negotiate, and make meaning from information presented in the form of an image.” Teaching math and reading literacy skills are embedded in our curriculum, but there is rarely an explicit mention of visual literacy. Common Core State Standards (CCSS), National Council of Teachers of English Standards (NCTE), and The Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning Corporation (McRel) all include visual literacy standards, yet we have not changed our curriculum to explicitly address these standards.

More and more we ask students to not only interpret graphics to help them learn, but also to create graphics to communicate their learning. Together we will explore why it is important to help students and ourselves develop visual literacy and design skills to be able to give meaning to the graphics we create. The purpose of these graphics ranges from communicating learning (posters, pamphlets, slideshows) to sending a persuasive message for a service organization (posters and advertising) to creating a positive digital footprint (portfolios for college admission and our own teacher portfolios). While we will focus on good graphic design, the skills we will discuss are equally applicable to other forms of media.

Participants will

  • Learn the language of visual literacy and graphic design.
  • Analyze visual messages (video and photo).
  • Discuss cultural differences in how we read visuals.
  • Curate a collection of good design samples.
  • Create visuals using design elements and principles.
  • Graphic designers often design with the acronym CRAP in mind: contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity.
  • Other design elements and principles include line, shape, color, space, texture, font, balance, and perspective.
  • Explore age appropriate visual literacy standards.
  • Explore age appropriate applications of visual literacy skills.
  • Discuss the importance of teaching these skills to students.

Intended Audience

Any age group, any audience. Anyone interested in good design and why visual literacy skills are important. (My background is with MS and HS, but I think what I’m talking about is easily translated to younger grades.)