Enhancing Learning Through Visuals

The more Visual the input becomes, the more likely it is to be recognized and recalled (Medina, 2014). Hear a piece of information and three days later you will remember only 10% of it. Add a picture and you will remember 85% of the information (Medina, 2014). Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. When working with ELLs, it is all about visuals, visuals, visuals as they are one of the fastest ways to communicate information and concepts. Visuals also help to reduce anxiety, increase comprehension and even help with decoding. 

8 Ways to Incorporate Visuals into the Classroom

  1. Visuals are not just images. They can include video clips, menus, bus schedules, post-cards, maps or a book page. Make the visuals as authentic as possible. 
  2. Project pages of a book the teacher is reading on a white board. That way the students can listen but also see the words read. When reading picture books project the images on the white board as the pictures support meaning. 

  3. Visual supports can be sketches that the teacher or students create. Sketchnoting is a form of note-taking, hence the “noting” part of it, but it involves bringing more visuals into the process compared to typical note-taking, hence the “sketch” part. Click here to see ten different ways that teachers can incorporate sketchnotes into the classroom. 

  4. Visuals also include real objects (realia) that the teacher or students bring to school to support vocabulary and concept development.

  5. The Picture Word Inductive Model (PWIM), developed by Emily Calhoun in1999,   is an excellent instructional strategy for teaching beginning ELLs. It uses pictures containing familiar objects, actions and scenes to tap into students’ prior knowledge to draw out words from their listening and speaking vocabularies. Click here to see ways to modify PWIM across subject areas. 

  6. Pairing visuals with new vocabulary is a powerful way to help students understand concepts and ideas. Start with a visual representation of the word when introducing vocabulary words and teaching them explicitly PICS4Learning provides teachers and students copy-right friendly photos and images for classrooms, multimedia projects, web sites, videos, portfolios, or any other project in an educational setting

  7. Interactive Word Walls!!!! Research shows that our brains work better when information is organized and categorized, connected and attached to a visual or real object. All of this can be embedded within Interactive Word Walls. Interactive word walls activate the student’s knowledge from L1 (first language) to transfer it to the target language (L2).Caution be careful of “Word Vomit”. Putting too much information on the walls is confusing. Research recommends that at least 20-50% of the wall space in the classroom should be blank.

Steps for making your own Interactive Word Wall:(adapted - Elementary ELLs Weebly website)  

1. Select critical vocabulary based on curriculum essential skills.

2. Sketch a map or graphic organizer that will best display the topic.

 (Graphic organizers can be found at: Eduplace, TeacherVision and EducationOasis)

3. Create the graphic organizer frame on the classroom wall. 

4. Allow students to add to the wall during class as learning grows.

5. Students can have their own copy of the graphic organizer to complete. 

8.Visuals help ELLs comprehend new information even if they are not able to understand every word their classroom teachers are saying. Whenever possible regularly incorporate visuals into classroom instruction, handouts, and assignments. Using visuals in tests, helps ELLs understand the questions better. 

              **Clip art organized by common units of study for beginning level ESL classes       can be found here and visuals from various academic content areas can be found  here


          “Strategically incorporating visuals into the classroom is good for all students but is essential for ELLs” 


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