Using visual aids

24th March 2006 at 00:00
Visual aids are an essential support for classroom learning as they provide easy ways for pupils to access work. The most simple and effective is a picture linked to the topic that the pupils have to describe. This removes all literacy issues, but pupils need to be taught how to "read" pictures.

Get pupils to look at a picture by getting them to describe what they see from right to left. This way, more details will be teased out.

You can use "targeted viewing", where pupils are given specific scenespieces of information to look out for. Or set them a mystery task such as "What does the man in the red jumper do?" This gives pupils a purpose to their viewing which means they can't switch off.

A variation is to give groups of pupils different viewing tasks. At the end, groups report back to the class with their findings. This provides a useful way of reinforcing content. If you want to challenge the pupils, turn the sound off and get them to script what is going on in the video. Or detune the picture so that pupils only have the audio track and they have to sketch or discuss which scenes fit.

If a written outcome is needed, give pupils worksheets based on 10-minute chunks of the video. After each chunk, stop the video and let them do the worksheet. This is more effective than running a video with pupils trying to fill in a sheet as they watch, or at the end.

Another way is to use predictive exercises. For example, the video is stopped and pupils are asked to predict what is going to happen next. This will show if the pupils are following the ideas, but it will also help them to plan their own video storyboards for future lesson content. In the same way, stop a video and get pupils to role-play what they have seen to reinforce learning.

If pupils are able to use storyboards and plan role-plays of content, this will make drama-type presentations more effective as they will understand the way videos are used to impart information. This means if the pupils use camcorders to video and show their own role-play it will be a more effective learning tool for other pupils.

Whatever the visual aid used, look to introduce critical thinking. Get pupils to evaluate the use of the aid to their learning and how they would improve it. This will deepen how they interact with visual learning aids beyond the simple content-type approach. This will extend them as learners, which is what all teachers aim for.

Roy Watson-Davies is an advanced skills teacher at Blackfen school for girls, in Sidcup, Kent. His books Creative Teaching and Form Tutors Guide are available from

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