Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Visual Literacy Activities with Online Resources

Visual Literacy is Everywhere!
Last week I talked about visual literacy in Visual Literacy Activities with Children's Picture Books.  I suggested children's picture books make a natural place to start teaching kids about visual literacy. Here are some online resources I've found that also support visual literacy.

Almost any website can be examined from the perspective of its visual communications. Encourage your kids to become aware of what's behind the type and placement of images, choice and size of font, subheadings, flow of one chunk of text to another, colours etc. This helps them not only to develop visual literacy skills they can use in their own projects, but also to become more media savvy as consumers.

Here are particular websites that I think are stand-outs in terms of visual literacy possibilities for kids:

At Howtoons, you'll find instructions on how to build all sorts of things. The instructions are in the form of a comic strip adventure and a downloadable pdf blueprint. Here's an example: The Infamous Marshmallow Shooter. There's also an excellent pdf booklet called Seeing the Future, A Guide to Visual Communication, that explains drawing plans to kids very well.

Your teens might be interested in Clean Up Your Mess which explains visual design beautifully.

Another great place to find diagrams I think your kids will like and appreciate is What I Made, where artist Scott Bedford shares wonderful creative projects via visually enticing diagrams. Example, instructions for a marble run.

Origami Kids is a great website for kids to develop visual literacy with text instruction, diagrams and stop-motion animations all available. For instance to make an origami box, you get to actually see the particular fold being made over and over in front of you before you look underneath and press the "next button" to see the next fold. Steps are slow and achievable for kids. And chooks.

If you're looking for a website where you and your children can actually create visualisations, try Many Eyes. Here you can choose to create word clouds, word trees, charts, graphs, diagrams and maps. Another website where you can create graphs is NCES Kid's Zone. At Icon Scrabble, children can type in a word and then generate it as symbols. See my example below.

When you're checking out these and other websites with your kids, it's a good idea to act like a detective, and try to work out what's going on. Discuss your overall impressions of a website, then try to drill down and discover how that impression was formed. Think about all the visual messages the site is sending, and how those messages were created. Look for graphic symbols that communicate instantly, and others that leave you puzzled as to their meaning. If a website or page is too "busy" with distracting elements, what implications does that have for our own presentations? If we like lots of pink sparkle, is that always appropriate for every communication?

{Image made by Book Chook with Skitch}
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