7 Ways to Use Visuals as Teaching Tools

Source: http://www.squidoo.com/elmo-projector
"A visual image in the hand of an artist is merely a tool to trigger a mental image." -Roy H. Williams

Visuals can be a very powerful teaching tool.  Teachers can use visuals to strategically engage, inspire and educate their students to create a very fun and exciting experience.

I incorporate visuals in my classroom everyday.  Sometimes I will use my document camera, along with my digital project, to display a document, pages from a book, or an item.

I often use my document camera to zoom in on a specific section of a document or use it as a magnifying class to look closer at an object.  I also use my document camera to take a picture of notes that I write during class.  I will then attach those notes on my website to have my students refer to it for upcoming assignments or for reflection.

Furthermore, I use my digital projector to display images that I find online.  Google Images is a great place to search for pictures and other visuals to use in the classroom.

If you don't have the technology such as a digital projector or a document camera, printing pictures and handing them to students can be just as effective.  Sometimes I will print a collection of pictures, put them in an envelope, and give them to students to organize into categories of their choice.  This teaching strategy encourages the students to use higher level thinking such as synthesis, evaluation, and justification in order to sort the pictures into specific groups.

My point is, there are lots of different ideas to integrate visuals into your instruction.  Below are some of my favorite ways that I use visuals in my classroom:
  1. to tell a story of a particular person or event
  2. to spark a conversation
  3. to stimulate inquiry
  4. to reach your visual learners
  5. to reach your struggling readers
  6. as an assessment
  7. for higher level thinking such as analysis, synthesis, and evaluation

I am going to provide you with an example of how I use visuals in my classroom.  I am going to be modeling the teaching strategy, Picture-Based Learning, using a teacher guide provided by the Library of Congress. Picture-Based Learning is great for stimulating inquiry.  I would display this picture to my students and have them observe, reflect, question and investigate the visual in their groups.

*Wired.com: http://tinyurl.com/lccdmb 

The text below is provided by the Teacher's Guide: Analyzing Primary Sources
Library of Congress:  LOC.gov/teachers

Observe: Have students identify and note details
  • What do you notice first?
  • Find something small but interesting
  • What do you notice that you didn't expect?
  • What do you notice that you can't explain?
  • What do you notice now that you didn't earlier?

Reflect: Encourage students to generate and test hypotheses about the source.
  • Where do you think this came from?
  • Why do you think somebody made this?
  • What do you think was happening when this was made?
  • Who do you think was the audience for this item?
  • What tool was used to create this?
  • Why do you think this item is important?
  • If someone made this today, what would be different?
  • What can you learn from examining this?

Question: Have students ask questions to lead to more observations and reflections.
  • What do you wonder about ...
  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How?

Further Investigation:  Help students to identify questions appropriate for further investigation, and to develop a research strategy for finding answers.

What more do you want to know, and how can you find out?

Follow up activity ideas:

Beginning: Have students compare two related primary source items

Intermediate: Have students expand or alter textbook explanations of history based on primary sources they study.

Advanced: Ask students to consider how a series of primary sources support or challenge information and understanding on a particular topic. have students refine or revise conclusions based on their study of each subsequent primary source.

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Promoting Inquiry and Exploration with Primary Resources


  1. yeah its true, visuals are beneficial for better teaching. with these we get better understanding information about our projects.


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