What is Going On?

I just reread an article that I read a few years ago. The author, Kiran Subhani, describes in detail an activity that she uses where students interpret what is going on in a photo. For example, contemplate the picture below from the Pulitzer Prize winner of 20 years ago, Carol Guzy:

First, Subhani would have students interact with the photo in a personal way. They journal about why they were drawn to the photo and what they literally see, putting themselves into the photo as best they can. Then the research begins. Students find out about the photographer, the subjects of the photo, the background of the conflict it depicts, and the varying opinions on that conflict. The final task is to choose the viewpoint that best suits the subject of the photo. All of this interaction leads to an understanding the image that our normally cursory attention does not allow.

The Subhani article led me to the New York Times learning column called What’s Going On In This Photo. This interesting concept is one of the New York Times many activities aimed at education and media literacy. Basically, users are regularly provided with images, usually provocative or interesting in some way, that are void of context. No headline, no caption. Just image. The idea is that students can use their Visual Thinking Strategies to try and tease out the clues, facts, or meaning behind the photo. Depending on the age of the students and how the teacher decides to frame the activity, they may also reveal some of their inherent biases that are important to be aware of as critical thinkers. How about this one from April 27th? (Answer revealed on Thursday)

In a modern world bombarded by imagery and information, the types of visual and media literacy promoted by activities like these are becoming more and more important. Please let me know of any critical thinking activities involving visual imagery that you have used in your class or in your Learning from Home situation. I would love to hear it.

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