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Brainstorming/ Issues and To do List

I was thinking in contributing with a unit on how to describe visual documents, the rationale behind it, the lexical and syntactic tools needed and how this can evolve onto visual/media and critical literacy. It will be based on Bloom's taxonomy and critical literacy methods and approach. I think this could even become a booklet :-)

What I need to have

  • An explanation of why this is important (maybe refer to academic work and 21st century skills (is there a non copyright version of this somewhere?)
  • Pictures of photos/works of art/,ads and other visual docs which are not copyright (check Flickr Flickr CC, Royalty Free photos and virtual collections in museums?)
  • A list of useful vocabulary and structures to use in description
  • questions and examples of exercises
  • The explanation of a learning sequence
  • Structure the different parts so it follows a logical progression.


Description, rationale, objectives and logistics

Language/literacy - What are visual/critical literacies, why are they important and how they can help learners of a foreign language communicate and have a broader perspective of the world they observe?

"Who would believe that so small a space could contain the image of all the universe? O mighty process! What talent can avail to penetrate a nature such as these? What tongue will it be that can unfold so great a wonder? Verily, none! This it is that guides the human discourse to the considering of divine things. Here the figures, here the colours, here all the images of every part of the universe are contracted to a point. O what a point is so marvelous!"(Leonardo da Vinci)(1)


Image courtesy of josef.stuefer

Language is a system for communicating, the act of passing and receiving information, an interactive and dynamic process by which meanings are exchanged so as to produce understanding and action. It both reflects and affects one's world view as it reveals and sometimes reinforces how one perceives, interprets and thinks about the world. (Fantini, 1997). Learning a foreign language does not only expose us to broader worlds of ideas and action, but also allows us to identify better our own perceptions as we compare them to other patterns of experience.

Literacy involves a continuum of learning to enable an individual to achieve his or her goals, to develop his or her knowledge and potential, and to communicate and participate fully in the wider society. What constitutes literacy, however, has changed throughout history and depends today very much on the cultural context this particular individual belongs to and the technology he or she has been exposed to. At the onset of language, aural and oral skills allowed culture transmission through family narratives, folk rituals and storytelling. As the written language became more and more dominant over the oral with the advent of press, the definition of literacy became the ability to use language to read, write, listen, and speak. New media and technologies are expanding this traditional concept so it now encompasses not only aural/oral and verbal skills but also a whole range of other literacies, among which, the visual and the critical.

Visual literacy is the ability to identify, describe, make meaning, interpret, negotiate from information presented in the form of an image and ultimately to think, create, and communicate graphically. Critical literacy focuses on the relationship between languages and world views, social practices, power, identity, citizenship, inter-cultural relations and global/local issues. Both visual and critical literacy are interdisciplinary skills. While visual literacy is based on the idea that pictures can be “read” and that meaning can be communicated through a process of reading, critical literacy shows us ways of looking at written, visual, spoken, multimedia and performance texts to question and challenge the attitudes, values and beliefs that lie beneath the surface.

A picture is worth a thousand words — but which, whose words, for what purpose and in what context? How can we integrate the teaching of visual and critical literacy skills to those needed to learn a foreign language and why should we?

When acquiring a new language, images contextualize and clarify new vocabulary items and concepts, making the process more meaningful and lively as they associate not only feelings and memories but also provide cultural background, biases and perceptions.

This unit aims at providing a methodology and some tools for description, analysis, interpretation and critical deconstruction of visual texts in ELT. Resources and practical examples of activities at different levels will be shared.


Images, at an elementary level can be a starting point for question and answer practice and oral expression.


  1. visual material
  2. vocabulary
  3. grammar
  4. interpretation


  1. a four module lesson plan (level intermediate)


(1) Leonardo Da Vinci's comments on the "Camera Obscura" (Dark Room) from The Amateur Photographer's Handbook by Aaron Sussman Thomas Y. Crowell Company: 1962 (2) Fantini, A. (1997) Language: Its Cultural and Intercultural Dimensions. In A. Fantini (Ed.). New Ways of Teaching Culture (pp. 3-15). Alexandria, VA: TESOL Publications.