NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ1017414
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Mar
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0013-8274
Changing the Lens: The Necessity of Visual Literacy in the ELA Classroom
Gilbert, Chris
English Journal, v102 n4 p89-94 Mar 2013
The author critiques covers of "Ebony" and "GQ" magazines in order to expose race and class narratives, and he encourages teachers to help students to become more aware of the ways in which other images "connote cultural information." Because of the prevalence of images in contemporary society, it is imperative that English Language Arts (ELA) instructors teach visual literacy to students so that they may become better able to reveal and rewrite the narratives of race and class that are inscribed in the innumerable images they unquestionably consume. Students are bombarded by still images projected online, inscribed on clothing, printed in magazines and newspapers, displayed in textbooks, etc. Because the medium of the image is omnipresent, it is imperative for students to be "visually literate." Although students access images through multiple means, the form of the magazine seems particularly suited for the promotion of "adult roles" because it is accessible (affordable and commonly shared) and typically characterized by an abundance of images. Once students have identified particular racialized and classed elements in each image, they could compare and contrast these images and then compare their conclusions to an additional, contemporary image that elicits questions regarding the representation of whiteness. This would be particularly interesting because it seems that many white students do not examine their own racial identity. There are many ways to directly involve students in the study of images, but the educator who pursues this avenue must be comfortable allowing for the construction of meanings that cannot be assessed on a standardized test or simply regurgitated by students. Such an intellectual exercise can introduce incredible tension into the classroom, but this tension is indicative of authentic student engagement. Students often adopt the attitudes that are modeled by their teachers, and if educators do not view the image as a text worthy of critique, it is likely that students will acquire this perspective as well. Without the necessary instruction of visual literacy, students will lose the opportunity to become critical consumers, and they will most likely develop the attitudes inscribed in the images they blindly consume.
National Council of Teachers of English. 1111 West Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096. Tel: 877-369-6283; Tel: 217-328-3870; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A