Think about a meaningful moment or event in your life from five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago. Odds are that you immediately had an image in your mind. From that image, you could easily retell about your memorable event. That is the power of visual encoding.
How could you harness this same power in your classroom? In the book Teaching for Deeper Learning: Tools to Engage Students in Meaning Making, authors Jay McTighe and Harvey Silver share the following tools for visualizing and graphic representation that can help your students learn more deeply (pp.83-98):
- Don’t Just Say It; Display It: It has been said, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” A picture can also help push content deeper into student minds and enable recall. Whenever possible, punctuate big content concepts with images.
- Split Screen: When students create their own images that represent content, they increase their potential understanding of the content. Using a split screen note style that allows students to write on one half of the page and illustrate on the other half the page facilitates deeper learning.
- Mind’s Eye: Constructing mental images before and during reading increases comprehension. In a Mind’s Eye organizer, students are given keywords from a text. They draw a picture based upon the keywords, and they describe feelings or personal connections as they relate to the image. Additionally, they write a few questions regarding the keywords, and they make predictions. After students complete the organizer, they read the text and compare the text with their organizer.
- Visualizing Vocabulary: Conceptualizing vocabulary words increases their meaning and application. Encouraging students to create imagery related to vocabulary words further strengthens the concepts and uses of the words. Students can fully explore vocabulary words by creating a visual glossary in which they provide the textbook definition of a word, their own definition of a word, a visual image (symbol) of the word, and an explanation of their image.
- Graphic Organizers: Advance Organizers, story maps, concept maps, and other student-generated graphic depictions of content can all help students “see” and deeply encode information. Because of the visual nature of the organizers, students can more readily recall and apply the information provided.
As you prepare for the lessons that remain in this academic year, think of ways you can increase the use of visuals to emphasize major content. You and your students will be glad you did!