When teaching English, it’s easy to forget that visual literacy isn’t just the ability to read and interpret written text. Especially in today’s world- infographics, ads, commercials, movies- they all demand some inference and interpretation very similar to analyzing a story. This was very much at the heart of one of my favorite teaching activities to do with students.
In this particular case, I asked them to gather items for a character’s suitcase. See if you can guess what character it might be (Some hints: I was teaching American Drama and the movie is a classic).
A pearl necklace, a scarf, a bit of lace, perfume, lipstick, tea, and heels? This can only mean Blanche DuBois. They even arranged it artfully so- leading us to discuss the things that would upset Stanley or how one might modernize the movie by substituting certain items (“who drinks tea anymore? I’d drop a Starbucks card in there bruh”) or updating her wardrobe (“girl has a thing for lace. Someone get her some Gucci leather”).
The best part: this can be modified to do any character from literature. Have a knapsack? Huck Finn does. How about a green tarp? Better see to Pilate (Song of Solomon).
And then, if you are really ambitious, snap a photo and you have an instant quiz/test question: “choose an item from the suitcase that symbolically represents that character. Explain it’s significance and compare the item to the character.” As I tell my students, no surprises here. Just pictures turned into words. Make it so.