Posted on 04/23/2014 at 01:57 PM by Liz Determan

Visual literacy is an important skill for our students in today’s world of infographics. Visual literacy allows students to construct meaning from visual images, to interpret the content of visual images, or to examine the social impact of those images. Therefore, visual literacy is important for visual comprehension, for communication, and for understanding culture, as visual images are becoming the predominant form of communication across a range of learning and teaching resources.

Just as in reading and writing, visual images have grammar, syntax, and semantics. The grammar in images deals with seeing the images in specific contexts. Meaning is formed by seeing the images, and thinking about the context within the cultural setting.

Syntax is the form or building blocks of the image. Some of the building blocks are graphic composition, camera placement, and point of view. Others might be scale, dimension, motion, framing, lighting, background, and foreground—in other words, all of the elements and principles of design.

Semantics refers to the way images relate more to current issues and events in order to gain meaning.  To understand semantics you might look at who created the image, who is the intended audience, what’s been left out or edited out, at what point in history and context was the piece created, or what the story says about society or an event.

Keeping this in mind, the following video about Rembrandt’s Night Watch takes on new meaning and provides ideas for emulating in the art and/or history classroom. Sometimes it’s difficult to get students interested in art history, but having them physically recreate the painting can lead to a greater understanding of the time period and culture in which it was created. Having an audience may further increase interest. Enjoy the video!

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