A Picture is Worth a Thousand words (ok, maybe more like 261?)

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).

Guess who's coming to dinner...

Guess who’s coming to dinner…

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.

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