An Introduction to Visual Literacy: Four Quadrants

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                                          An Introduction to Visual Literacy 

Visual literacy is the ability to “read” an image. The traditional definition of literacy is limited to the ability to read and write, but visual literacy refers to being able to “ability to read, write, and create visual images” (Harrison, n.d.).To interpret the world around them, students need to be able to more than just merely read and write. They need tools to help them negotiate actions and images as well. This is where visual literacy comes in! 

One straightforward way to teach and practice visual literacy is at the beginning of a unit using a strategy called Four Quadrants. First, show students a complete image like this one. This is a social studies image, but this strategy can be used with images for all subjects! 

    As you introduce the strategy, model for students how to examine and discuss the setting, the people, the actions and activities, and any questions they might have about the image. As they become more confident with visual literacy, students can work in groups or pairs for the initial discussion. 

After the initial discussion, show the image divided into four quadrants like this. 

    Have students examine each quadrant more closely and make observations about each quadrant individually. You can help them take a closer look at each quadrant by blocking out the others as shown below on the left, and even making each quadrant larger for them as shown below on the right. 


     Have students repeat the same observations with each quadrant. Click here to download this free Four Quadrants student observation page that works for any image in any subject. This strategy is a great way to begin a new unit and perfect for teaching visual literacy in a fun, engaging way! 

by Robyn from The Snodgrass Smart Store

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