Have you flown in an airplane recently? If so, you probably recall that the flight attendants don’t simply tell you what to do with your seat belt and the other myriad instructions they need to give. They have to show you. Why? Even airline personnel know that merely telling human beings what they need to know is probably the least effective form of getting the information across to them. Brains need a visual to accompany the information. I fly so frequently that not only have I memorized the dialogue of what to do but also, I can actually physically show you where the exits are. If you ever attend one of my workshops, I will be more than happy to demonstrate this crucial information for you. 🙂 Some airlines have even added the strategy of humor to the flight instructions to increase the passengers’ attention and retention.
The Chinese knew the power of visuals thousands of years ago when they created the following proverb:
Tell me, I forget.
Show me, I remember.
Involve me, I understand!
At least 50% of students in any classroom will be predominately visual learners (Willis, 2006). Look at all the information that today’s students are taking visually. They are texting on their cell phones, they are playing video games; they are spending hours on the Internet; or they are watching television. These activities would make the visual modality a strong one for many of your students. There is even physical evidence to support that the visual cortex in the brains of students today is actually physically thicker than it was in my brain when I was their age. That is why you need the strategy of visuals.
What The Research Says
Reality or fantasy can be created with the same ease by the internal visual processing system of the brain (Sousa & Pilecki, 2013).
Because the eyes can take in 30 million bits of information per second, teachers should provide images and moving pictures when instructing students (Jensen, 2007).
Concept maps, flowcharts, graphic icons, cartoons, sketches, and drawings are all visuals that help students understand and process new content (Allen, 2008).
Make It Happen
- Gain and keep students’ visual attention by changing your location in the room. Begin your lesson in the front of the class and then shift to other areas. This tactic will not only keep students interested but also put you in close proximity to all students and communicate to them that you care about their well-being and are interested in what they are doing. Remember to teach on your feet, not in your seat!
- Place visuals on the classroom bulletin boards and walls that introduce or reinforce concepts being taught. For example, display a visual of the periodic table on the wall in a science class or the eight parts of speech in a language arts class. Even if those visuals are removed during testing, they can still be visualized by the students.
- Find and show students a visual or real artifact to clarify a concept being taught. For example, bring in a live chrysanthemum as you teach the vocabulary word for this flower, show a picture of the Great Wall of China as you teach about its history, or bring in a pizza to teach the concept of fractional pieces.
For more examples of instructional activities using visuals, consult the 3rd edition of my best-selling book, Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites.