See, Think, Wonder

The Situation

You want to develop your students ability to read a visual text.

The Solution

Often when students look at a text, they attempt to process it all of the image at the same time. That is, instead of stopping and considering the elements of an image, they glance and develop an idea immediately.

What they need to do is stop and consider what is actually in the image and why it has been chosen. We call this a See, Think, Wonder.

  1. See: Record what you see.
  2. Think: Record what is happening in the image.
  3. Wonder: Pose a question about what has occurred.

Below is an image from Shaun Tan incredible picture book, The Red Tree. It is a complex image and after five years, I still discover small things within the image that change my interpretation.

Normally, I will get students to complete each of steps one at a time. If you throw the entire activity towards them, you may run the risk of information overload. Get them to simply record what they see on the page. You may assign 2-3 minutes for this task.

For example:

  • Blue sky
  • Girl in bottle
  • Scuba head mask
  • Landscape of shells

Afterwards, reflect and record their observations on the whiteboard. From there, encourage students to consider why these things have been included in the image. Remember to provide the sentence starter I think.

For example:

  • Girl in bottle – I think she is feeling isolated and shut off from the world.

Now, students are working towards developing an interpretation of the image. Later, we can start looking at using specialised vocabulary such as lines and composition (As you can see from the image). The final step of the activity is for students to develop questions about the text. They should ask questions using why as a stem.

For example,

  • Why has the illustrator chosen to…

After the activity, you can begin applying specialised vocabulary. Students need to have a general understanding of what the image is telling them. Without this understanding, they will find it difficult to start analysing the image using this more complex vocabulary.

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