Saturday, November 1, 2014

You Ought to Be in Pictures – Using the Visual to Strengthen the Linguistic

I had a wonderful conversation with a colleague a few days ago about student strengths, and since this conversation, I’ve been hypothesizing all sorts of things about the way our kiddos behave in the classroom.  I don’t have to tell many people this, but according to the Birmingham Multiple Intelligence Test, one of my highest intelligences is musical/rhythmic. I don’t get to use this intelligence much in the classroom, however.  This year, I’ve been illustrating the use of our intelligences to my students by bringing up my lack of kinesthetic intelligence.  To clarify, I hate exercise and anything associated with it.  I don’t learn by doing, and I hate moving around.

But I’m forty.  And if I plan to live a long time, I need to get moving.  So in January I started running.  The only way I can get myself moving – be it outside or on a treadmill – is to blast music at just the right BPM into my ears for the entire run.  And so I did.  It’s been ten months since I started, and I ran over two miles this morning.

My point is – I used my musical intelligence to pull me through my weakness in my kinesthetic, which is strengthening every day.  This made me start thinking about the number of kiddos we have who can’t do their homework unless they’re listening to music.  It’s not all of them, but many of our students have a musical/rhythmic strength that may pull them through the trials of not being linguistic or mathematical/logical

Today’s strategy uses visual to strengthen linguistic.  So many of our kiddos are visual learners, that if we don’t use that to our advantage, we miss out on a huge opportunity to strengthen other areas!  This particular strategy is one outlined in the Project CRISS manual as You Ought to Be In Pictures and can be used in any content area.  Here’s how it works.

Choose a picture or cartoon for the students to view either on the projector or photocopied.  Depending on your objective of the lesson, give your students instructions as to how to use the picture.  You could choose to have them:
  •  Answer questions based upon what they see.  If you are using the picture at the end of a unit, perhaps they need to use what they’ve learned to help them answer those questions.
  • Caption the picture using information they’ve learned.
  • Caption the picture using specific words that they’ve been studying during the unit.
  • Describe what might be happening in the picture based upon what they’re learning.
  • Notice specific things in the picture and write about it.
  • Write a narrative about what is happening in the picture.  

Some examples of how this could be used are below.
  •  Language arts – Caption the photograph using specific words or a part of speech correctly.
  • Social studies – Caption the photograph knowing what you know about life in a specific time period.  Use three of the vocabulary words we have studied.
  • Science – Write a narrative about what is happening in the photograph, now that you’ve conducted an experiment that looks similar to it.  Use these three vocabulary words in your narrative: ___, ___, and ___.
  • Health – Look at the graphic and write a narrative about the way that the respiratory system works using your vocabulary correctly.  Be sure to include all parts of the system.
  • PE – Use the photograph to help you write a narrative about a person teaching a seven year old to play this game for the first time.  Be sure to include the rules that the person would have to learn in order to not get hurt.
  • Math – use the photograph to write a word problem based upon what you see.  Solve the problem and explain what you did and why.
  • Music – Use the photograph and the piece of music we just learned to write a short story.  Bring them together using what we learned about the meaning of the piece.
  • Art – Use the photograph of this artist to write a story about what is going through this artists mind as she is creating.  Use three of the words we have learned in this unit to explain the process of her creation.
  • Woodshop/Life Skills - Use this photograph to explain why this person got hurt.  Include safety tips that we learned this week and how you know the person in the photograph didn't follow the rules.
It takes a little creative thinking on your part, but you can tie photographs in anywhere for your visul/spacials and use them to help your students strengthen their other areas of intelligence.  Keep in mind that the writing is going to be really hard for some of them - especially if they're not accustom to writing in your content area.  Stick with it, though.  Make them write once a week, and they'll start expecting it.  They know when it's "pacers" day in PE - whether they like it or dislike it - they come to expect it.  They can come to expect to write weekly, as well, in any content.  It just takes practice and determination on your part.  I know that it's not just your kiddos whose boxes are being shaken up a bit - its yours too, but you'll get used to it, and some of you may actually enjoy the change of pace!  

How can you use this type of activity in your content?  Share your ideas with us in the comments.


  1. Some great ideas across content areas!

    To give credit where it's due, educator, author, and friend of Project CRISS, Doug Buehl, formalized You Ought to Be in Pictures in his book, Classroom Strategies for Interactive Learning (2009).

    1. Thanks for your input, Deb! I didn't know this tidbit of information. Good to know!