"Let's Get Visual! Visual!" The Power of Visual Literacy Through QR Codes

08 July 2014
Editor's Note:  This is a post from earlier in the summer, but I didn't want to over-do it QR CODES so I'm linking it up for Tune Into Technology.

Are you old enough to know who this is?

This blog post title should be read/sung to the tune of Olivia Newton-John's 1981 super-smash single "Physical".  

Originally, Olivia wanted the title of the song "Physical" to be "Visual"--you see she understood the importance of visualizing, comprehending, and making inferences in educational settings.  The problem was her record label didn't totally agree--so she changed it to "Physical" and the rest is history.  True story, I swear.  Which brings us full circle to one of my favorite ways to learn--Using Visual Literacy to access understanding of what we see!

"Let's get Visual!  Visual!"  See, now the song is stuck in your brain and it's become a mind-bottling sensation for visual literacy.

Images (film, video, photos, signs, yada, yada, yada) are all around us.  They inundate us, tell us stories, and crave our attention.  BUT so many times we (and the students) don't understand the meanings behind them.  There's tons of reasons why (too difficult, it takes time and practice, patience, limited prior knowledge, where do we begin).  The bottom line is this: understanding, questioning, and making sense of images is a key skill that students need.  Not just in school, but in real life--but it's a skill they need to practice.

Would any of us be able to put together an IKEA chair and desk without the assistance of a little visual instructional fortitude?  I think not.

I love this quote (and I'm not even a quote guy).

Think about those kids you call "troublesome"  or the ones that I call "street smart".  Their ability to understand using visual literacy (and quickly take stock of their surroundings) are the kids that have it and use it the best.  That doesn't mean they always make the correct decisions BUT they pick up on cues, ask questions, and make guesses/predictions better than many of our "model" students based on my years of working with kids.  One of the reasons for this is because those students have been ingrained with the idea that they must adapt or be left behind.  They had to figure out how to navigate or they'd get left behind. But I digress...

Thinking about visual literacy makes me go back to Pinterest (I'm making a connection).  
Why do we love it?  PICTURES--immediate understanding, relating, making connections! 
How many of us are visual learners? Yup, I am.
Are we building that same base for our students?  Probably, but we could always be doing more.


So you're probably asking me: "Matt, how can you help me out because I'm getting real tired of you going on and on about this visual lit stuff."  Well, I got you covered because I'm giving you another QR Code Breaker Freebie for Visual Literacy. Insert Oprah's "And You Get A Car" speech here.

A couple of weeks ago I created a QR Code Breaker for Read Aloud Books (find it here).  Now I've made this freebie for improving visual literacy skills using pictures and images on the QR Codes.  After scanning in the codes the students will see an image and they'll have to answer questions specific to the image that are on the worksheet. See the examples 

The QR Code links to an interesting image that students must decipher/decode/understand for themselves.  Each page has four questions that vary from who, what, where, when, and why (and how) to redrawing the image, pulling vocabulary terms out, making connections, and questioning the importance, and more.  In this file you'll find five worksheets to try with your students.

So, go download this freebie and see what you think.  This is a quick and fun activity to get students thinking about exactly what they're seeing (or aren't seeing).  It's also an excellent way to create discussion in the classroom about what each individual student takes from seeing each image.  We all see from different angles and those differences can help foster a better understanding of images we see every day.

**Don't have tech?  No problem.  You can do this same thing by picking out images from newspapers, magazines, or graphics around the room.  Then have the students answer questions that aren't just "yes or "no".  Make them tell you why.  Make them explain how they know.  

So run, don't walk!  Get yourself a copy to try out.  
If you like it check out a couple of my other QR Code Adventures.

Thanks for stopping by and don't forget to check out all the other great blogger posts for Tune Into Tech:  Math Edition.  Stop by  Learning to the Core and iTeach 1:1 for more like this or to link-up yourself. 


  1. You're right Matt, we can always do more for our visual learners. I love your QR code adventures! In my class we've created many vocab-u-toons to illustrate our understanding of a new vocabulary word. I like how this is a flip-flop version of that! AND...yes, even though I wasn't born when that song came out...I do still know who that is. Ha!
    Short and Sassy Teacher

  2. I seriously blame you for the Olivia Newton John VISUAL stuck in my head. I can't believe Erin^^^^ wasn't even born when that song came out. That was my first tape I owned. You know what this means...I'm OLD. Thanks for another freebie. As always...you KNOW I'll be using this in my class.
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  3. Um - I'm with Alison about not believing that Erin^^^^ was not born when the song came out. I'm old too. Now that song will be stuck in my head the rest of the day. I won't lie - your title pulled me in. I love the concept for your QR Code products! We've used QR Codes in my room on a couple occasions and the kids loved it! Thanks for sharing!

    Learning in the Little Apple

  4. You are so creative, Matt! I may print these out and put them up on a bulletin board. Thanks for being so generous with your freebies and linking up your unique ideas.:)
    iTeach 1:1

  5. I'm totally a visual learner too! And, this freebie is WAY too cool- thank you so much for linking up and for the freebie!
    Amanda & Aylin :)
    Learning to the Core

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