Feb 3, 2012

How to Make Your Lessons a Thousand Times Better


Do you want to make your lessons a thousand times better?  Then use visual images.  You've heard the saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words."  It is true.  Dr. Leonard Sweet says, "We are wired to be visual learners.  Images are the language of the 21st century...not words."

Major corporations know this.  They spend billions of dollars each year to find the right imagery to sell a product, service, or idea.  The United States Military spent $598 million on advertising to increase "brand identity" and meet their annual recruitment goals.  Nike spent $269 million on its image to sell their products.  Pepsi budgeted over $1 billion on its image.  Not to be out done, Coca-Cola budgeted $1.4 billion for its image.

Kids think using pictures.  John Berger writes in his book Ways of Seeing, "Seeing comes before words.  The child looks and recognizes before it can speak." 

Visual images help kids understand lessons.  Robert E. Horn, an award-winning scholar at Stanford University's Center for the Study of Language and Information, said, "When words and visual elements are closely entwined, we create something new and we augment our communal intelligence ... visual language has the potential for increasing ‘human bandwidth'—the capacity to take in, comprehend, and more efficiently synthesize large amounts of new information." 

Visual images help kids remember lessons.  Dr. Lynell Burmark said, "...unless our words, concepts, ideas are hooked onto an image, they will go in one ear, sail through the brain, and go out the other ear.  Words are processed by our short-term memory where we can only retain about 7 bits of information (plus or minus 2).  This is why, by the way, that we have 7-digit phone numbers.  Images, on the other hand, go directly into long-term memory where they are indelibly etched."  Pictures get caught in our brains.

Visual images help kids apply the lesson.  A study at the University of Minnesota School of Management found that presenters who use visual aids are 43% more effective in persuading audience members to take a desired course of action than presenters who don't use visuals.  Give kids a point for their head and an image for their heart.

Ideas for using visual images in your teaching...
  • Use images on screen.
  • Use printed pictures or signs.
  • Balance words and images well.  
  • Use simple icons to represent key points / truths.
  • Give kids pictures that represent a truth and ask them to discuss what they are seeing.

What are some other ideas for using visual images to enhance teaching?  Share your ideas and comments below.

Posted by Dale Hudson

2 comments:

Some great ideas. I like to change things up and use a projector with the laptop on some occasions. If you use a laptop and Powerpoint, remember to keep it to visuals. Bullet points in a business meeting are bad enough. Kids will be less tolerant of a bunch of text and minimal or no visuals. Bullet points are NOT visuals!

Other times, I use butcher paper that is taped to a table. With a little practice, you can draw icons that represent the story as you tell it. A table can make a great easel if you want something to draw on.

That is a great point Kevin. Words are not a visual...even on powerpoint. That is very helpful. I am going to remember that. Thanks.

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