Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

I asked myself, “Why can my students remember every word in a song or every bit of a show on television but forget what my lesson was about?”  Visual media is a powerful tool and one that can be quickly and easily added to a lesson to enhance the level of engagement, learning, and recall. I wanted to share the ease of adding visual media to lessons for my teachers so the first session in my 10 professional development series was on doing just that.

First, I shared the research and loved that Willingham asked the same question I have been asking for years.

  • Research suggests that people learn abstract, new, and novel concepts more easily when they are presented in both verbal and visual form (Salomon, 1979).
  • Other empirical research shows that visual media make concepts more accessible to a person than text media and help with later recall (Cowen, 1984).
  • In Willingham’s (2009) research he asks a simple question to make his point, “Why do students remember everything that’s on television and forget what we lecture?” – because visual media helps students retain concepts and ideas.

Next, I shared resources for both Writing and Reading that incorporated visual media into the lesson.  Much like the use of technology, visual media should only be used to enhance the lesson.  The best way is to write your lesson and then see where visual media could be easily added.  Never find a cute or funny clip of video and then force a lesson around it. If you find a clip you want to use, study it to see what natural skills can be taught using it. Many clips can be used for multiple skills and can be paired with text for deeper learning.

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 5.02.05 PMMany of my resources use visual media as a foundation to teach a skill.  I like using visual media images, audio, and video to hook them into learning and then move them to the text to reinforce the same skill.  They have the foundation without even realizing the are working and they can easily recall the methods of analysis because they first did so with visual media. Plus the advantages to using visual media is that a image or short clip can be analyzed much faster than reading and working through a text.

Resources shared on using visual media can be found at Stanton’s ELA Workshop.

  1. Creative Writing Stations with Visuals teaching Mood, Setting, Characterization

  2. Imagery Sensory Lesson Activities – Foldable & Assessment & Game

  3. Figurative Language in Poetry
  4. Cause and Effect with Pixar Short “for the birds”

Teachers left with the hands on resources they needed to implement visual media into their lessons and were eager to do so.  I also shared two videos and had them brainstorm, discuss, and share out what skills they could use the videos to teach.  They had great ideas for multiple skills and even pairing the videos and nothing was forced.


  1. SOAR – An Animated Short Films **ACADEMY AWARD WINNING** BY Alyce Tzue – Fictional Visual Media

  2. SOAR Takes Flight & The Student Academy Award for Animation | Academy of Art University – Nonfictional Visual Media

How would you use these videos to enhance your lesson?

**Check back for my next session on Paired Passages.



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