Picture = 10,000 Words

One picture is worth ten thousand words.

-Chinese Proverb


As educators in the technology age, we cannot forget the importance of visuals.  A photograph can elicit engagement and help to build background assisting students to make connections immediately.  Visuals are SO powerful that you can even trick the brain into making unusual or incorrect connections by inserting a photograph into learning. For example, when I taught Academically Gifted, I would often present a riddle at the beginning of class to begin critical thinking.  By adding a visual to the riddle, all students had a place to begin thinking.  By adding an incorrect visual it began students thinking in a different direction.


This is an example of a third grade riddle.


How does the visual affect your thinking?

What happens when you see the same riddle presented with a different visual?


Can you see the power of a simple photograph?  Neither graphic is the correct answer. Each elicits different thoughts and connections for the student.

A visual can be processed by the brain in ¼ of a second and helps your brain immediately begin to make connections to the text.  By applying visuals or video clips into your lessons you are helping students make sense out of the academic content while increasing their attention and ability to remember the information. Karla Guiterrez shares Dr. Lynell Burmark’s (educational consultant) statement, “…unless our words, concepts, ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear. Words are processed by our short-term memory where we can only retain about seven bits of information (plus or minus 2) […]. Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched.”  The graphics can increase retention of information forty two percent which is especially powerful for our English Language Learners and low socioeconomic students who lack background and vocabulary.  Using video and visuals can help to make concepts concrete for learners.

Here are 3 strategies for using visuals and making learning active.

  1. Begin lessons with a graphic (video, photograph, painting, video clip, etc) that will encapsulate the lesson; which creates a hook for the learner. The visuals help evoke emotion and make learning more concrete which will assist students in remembering and accessing the information.
  2. Use visuals (photographs, primary documents, paintings, video clips, etc.) and scaffolding questions to help students build background and vocabulary for a lesson.

Example:  Use photos from nationalgeographic.com which depict weather scenes such as this one.


Start with questions:

What do you see?

How are the clouds similar?  How do they seem different?  How are clouds created?

With simple questions you can help students see that we have an atmosphere that is layered; clouds are not all similar and are separate entities.  You have the ability to begin building vocabulary in just a few minutes.  Introducing concepts such as evaporation, condensation, water cycle, precipitation and the kinds of precipitation helps students begin to make connections between words they have heard or will hear throughout the lesson.

  1. Video clips can be utilized with students in pairs. One student will face the visual and one facing away. Show the video or clip and one student will narrate or describe what they see to the other student and then switch places. (To keep students from being exposed to the negative ads of Youtube–you can use a tool called ViewPure which will filter out the inappropriate ads for student viewing)  This allows students to verbalize what they see by using the vocabulary they have learned.  You would have students face one another and then let them discuss together what they see.  After the direct teaching lesson, show the visual or clip again and repeat the lesson while encouraging students to use new vocabulary.  By allowing students to share information, they are beginning to use the vocabulary and “conceptualize.” Speaking and listening allow the students to access the knowledge and make sense of it before they are asked to read or write.  

Utilizing a webtool called Edpuzzle  you can add questions to a video at designated stopping points and deepen learning with thought provoking questions. (See Jennifer M. or Kelly if you want to know more on how to use this tool)

75% of our learning is through the eyes.  Visuals help us make “sense” out of ideas and evoke an emotion which aids remembering the information.   We can process a visual faster than text and retain that information longer. Knowing this information, our need to incorporate more graphics, video clips, drawing and art to ensure our students are making connections to material and deepening their learning is clear.


Resources Accessed for this Article:

Blog  by Karla Guiterrez accessed on March 18, 2016:  http://info.shiftelearning.com/blog/bid/350326/Studies-Confirm-the-Power-of-Visuals-in-eLearning

Infographic accessed on March 19, 2016:  http://visual.ly/fascinating-facts-about-human-brain

Infographic accessed on March 16, 2016:  http://neomam.com/interactive/13reasons/


4 Thoughts.

    • Thanks Denise for reading! Time is a barrier for so many things! I am not at your school but you can always email me if you need help finding something!

      Talk to you soon!

  1. Wow! Wow! Wow! A lot of helpful information. I have always known visuals are helpful, but this post has been a great reminder or maybe even an eye opener of how I need to do a better job of using visuals. I love the partner activity and feel like I just struck the lottery with ViewPure as a teacher and a mom. You are such an invaluable resource to our school and education in general. I need to go back to your posts weekly to remind myself of these awesome ideas and sites to be using. I know its one more thing on your plate, but in the future maybe each week as you blog you could add anything from the web in a google doc. It would be an ongoing list. That way all the WONDERFUL sites you post would be at my fingertips. Sorry for sounding so selfish. I appreciate you!

    • Heather
      Thanks for your response. It is nice to know someone is reading and getting something from the blog! I have started the doc and will add to it each week. I will go back and add from other posts as well. Thanks for the encouragement from your thoughts.


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