Visual literacy: Fake flyers, protest signs, and demotivational posters

All, Teaching

My belief in the importance of visual literacy has grown over time. Not only is visual literacy important to our understanding of the information presented to us, but it is also an important way for us to think about ideas and make connections. I don’t have students draw everything all the time, but on a regular basis I do ask my students to draw. As I’ve noted before, I am a big fan of bell ringers and although these are usually writing prompts sometimes I like to mix it up with a prompt to draw something instead. One of the reasons I like to kick off a class with a challenge to draw is that students are often less intimidated by the blank page (in my experience) when they are armed with crayons or markers. I suspect because they have a less fraught history with art than with writing. However, perhaps more important, drawing combined with writing engages your whole brain:

“You have two brains: a left and a right.  Modern brain scientists now know that your left brain is your verbal and rational brain; it thinks serially and reduces its thoughts to numbers, letters and words…  Your right brain is your nonverbal and intuitive brain; it thinks in patterns, or pictures, composed of ‘whole things,’ and does not comprehend reductions, either numbers, letters, or words.”

From The Fabric of Mind, by the eminent scientist and neurosurgeon, Richard Bergland.  Viking Penguin, Inc., New York 1985.

There is also a third reason that might be the most important for me: drawing can be fun and relaxing! I first began using fake flyers, protest signs, and demotivational posters as a stress relief at the end of the semester, but have since learned to harness their power as a tool that can be used to both jumpstart thinking and to develop ideas. Whenever I inspire students to create fake flyers, protest signs, and demotivational posters it is always a good class filled with laughter and discussion.

Activities I use to support the creation of visual literacy artifacts:

  • My fake flyers prompt was inspired by Nathaniel Russell’s “Fake Flyer” art assignment (You can use his collection of fake flyers and other awesome collections by Jason Saenz and ViralNova to find inspiration).
  • Fake protest signs came from the same well as both Russell and Saenz share theme. They also share many traits with memes. Are they a meme…something to ponder I suppose.
  • Demotivations were introduced to me by a friend and I can’t tell you how many hours of laughter they have inspired…laughter because otherwise I would need to cry at the truth they share. Their dark humor are also fertile ground for my students. If you need more inspiration check out the #Demotivational hashtag.

What activities do you use with your students to promote visual literacy? How do you use fake flyers, protest signs, and demotivational posters in your classroom?

Check out this great lesson for Protest Signs by Rebekah O’Dell!

The featured artwork was created by one of the participants in my KCTE 2018 presentation “Transliteracy: (re)Writing Your Students’ Literacy Journeys” – I would love to give proper credit so please contact me if you designed that sign!

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