Visuals Underpin Curricular Content

Photo Credit: dtl via Morguefile 

I have new units on the horizon in all my classes as the start of a new trimester is looming. I had a hard time narrowing down to one image after searching creative commons sites Morguefile and Compfight . I chose two images for my upcoming Grade 4 unit of Mousetrap Racers. The image of the the mousetrap with the fingers caught in it gives my students some important ideas to think about. First and foremost I need them to know that the mousetrap is dangerous and it should be handled with care.

Photo Credit: dmscs via Morguefile

Secondly, the image shows them that the trap has power.  They will need to harness this power for their next unit project. That brings me to my next image; that of a zooming racecar. The two images combined on the open slide of my unit slideshow demonstrates that transition that will be taking place. A mousetrap being modified as a powerful engine for a super fast racer. It may be hard for them to imagine how that transformation may take place. That’s good. I want them to think, to think hard. Part of the process for them to be successful designers in my STEM class is for them to imagine and think. Great visuals pushes them to think and imagine, to dream and to wonder. I hope that these visuals meet this goal for me and for them.



The visual is so very important in my STEM classroom. There can be a lot of creativity in the design and building of projects in the classroom. Visuals help inspire ideas that push the boundaries of what can be done. They can also provide ideas to help students look at materials and see what they can be when combined in certain ways. I use images and videos all the time in my class.


The use of visuals in my classroom is something to which I have given a lot of thought. I teach all grades in the Elementary School from KG2 through to Grade 5. There are 5 classes in each grade level and i see them only once in a 6 day cycle. Many of my kiddos are ELL students. Needless to say many of my students have a hard time remembering and finding some of the many resources that I have in my classroom.


My plan was to develop signage (like you might see in a bookstore or grocery store) to help my classes find the things they need when they come to my class. I take a lot of pictures in my class. The big difference would be that the signs would be completely based on graphic icons instead of text. Here is an example of what I mean:

This sign hangs over a shelf that stores something my ECE students use a lot. Can you guess what it might be? There is another side to it with different picture of students using the materials but with the same icons. The icons also follow the same color scheme as other icons in the class.


I take a lot of pictures in class and my kids love to see themselves in action. Our school has amazing, huge pictures of the kids at work and play all over campus and it makes the school seem like home. This are the reasons that I like to create my own custom images. Instead of doing searches for Creative Commons images I use photos that I have taken and when I need icons and clipart I either create these myself (although I am not so great at this) or I purchase vector art that can easily be manipulated in Adobe Illustrator. It’s mine and I don’t have to ask permission from anybody.


I also wanted to use the power of visual images to capture the imagination and spur the motivation of my students. The ISTE Resource on visual literacy gives some great examples of how powerful images can bring attention to a situation and result in positive changes. The  “Migrant Mother” is one such example of a powerful image. When I planned a poster that demonstrates the design process I chose photos of my students in the various stages. It demonstrates to them that they have all gone through these stages and emphasizes what the stages look like. The poster is shown below.


One thought on “Visuals Underpin Curricular Content

  1. Great post, Andrew! I agree that visuals are paramount in the learning process – who doesn’t anymore. Your classroom is a wonderful representation of the power of images. The images displayed are also great reminders to students of what to do, but also that it can be done. I also agree with your statement that visuals assist students in, “finding some of the many resources that I have in my classroom.” While I do not use images in this same way, I find that visual imagery assists students in remembering the learning goal being taught on a given day. By recalling an image from a lesson, it is my hope that the students will be able to recall the lesson itself. I am beginning to change my mindset that the words on the page are of greater importance than a meaningful image. The image can assist in recalling information taught and/or discussed. I am thinking of asking students to find images/videos that will assist them in remembering the day’s learning goal(s). By finding an image/video that means something to them, it may assist in their processing and recall of the learning goals throughout the unit. Once/if I implement this strategy, I will let you know how it goes.

    Keep up the great work!

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