According to the dictionary visual literacy is: the ability to recognize and understand ideas conveyed through visible actions or images (as pictures).
Visual literacy can be traced back to the cave drawings thousands of years ago. Rebus charts have been used for years in early childhood to combine pictures with text. More recently as technology has advanced so has the use of visual images. They are everywhere from road signs to labels on clothing, snacks, buildings, comics, photographs, illustrations. We’ve always known that children read pictures before they read words, but the amount of visual images they encounter through screen time is overwhelming.
According to research, the majority of information absorbed by humans is through our sense of sight. One study claimed we process images 60,000 times faster than text. That’s pretty darn fast! Mary Alice White (researcher, Columbia Teacher’s College) suggests young students learn more than half what they know through visual information.
Just think about emoji. I love those little graphics, don’t you? They are definitely an example of visual literacy that we use every day as we text and email. You can find images for facial expressions, animals, plants, places, foods, drinks, celebrations, sports, activities, flags, weather, etc. at many sites including:
*You can also purchase emoji stickers that you can use for some of the activities below.
So, how do we take something that is popular and “child friendly” and turn it into a learning opportunity? Well, I used my and have come up with a few activities I’ll share today and tomorrow.
Matching – Make two copies of emoji animals or faces. Glue one copy to a file folder and cut the other into separate pieces. Children match up the ones that are alike.
Memory – Cut poster board into 3” squares. Glue two if each emoji to the squares. Mix up the pieces and place face down on the floor. Children take turns looking for matching pairs by turning over two at a time. They may keep the pairs they match up.
*Hint! Start with 8 pairs and add more as the children become more confident playing the game.
Sorting – Provide children with emojis from different categories, such as animals, people, holidays, transportation, food, etc. and challenge them to sort these. What was their sorting rule?
Feelings – Discuss different emotions that emoji are illustrating. What makes you feel that way? Remind the children that we all have different emotions and that’s O.K.!
Sign In - Children write their name under the emoji that reflects how they are feeling when they come to school each morning.
Puppets – Glue emoji to crafts sticks and let children use them to work out problems or create stories.
Emojis are a good example of something teachers can “harvest” and use for a wide variety of grade levels and skills.