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Tips For Imaginative Educators #14: Engage the Literate Eye

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Whether early or accomplished readers, if your students read, then their emotions and imaginations can be evoked when they engage the "literate eye". Add this to your cognitive toolkit: literate students learn better when they have opportunities to work with information in different visual formats.  

So, encourage your students to play with graphs, charts, tables, maps, lists, VENN diagrams, info graphics etc.

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The Literate Eye: A Cognitive Tool

If you have been following this Tools of Imagination series on BAM EdWords, you will be familiar with the term “cognitive tool”. The practice of organizing knowledge in different visual ways is another tool of the imagination and, thus, learning or "cognitive tool." Here’s why: when we become literate the way we access information shifts. Rather than gaining most of our information about the world through our ears (which is the case primarily for oral language users) we now access information actively through our eyes. We de-code symbols all around us (language being one symbol system) all the time. So, afford your students opportunities to play with information visually and you will tap into this powerful feature of their imaginative literate lives.

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Resources Worth Checking Out

BBC iWonder – Could you be a courtier to the Sun King at Versailles? This article provides some great interactive activities for teaching about Louis XIV.  What I want to point out is the section entitled: “Louis’ Life In Numbers”–you’ll see it.  

Or check out this article for K-12 English/Literature teachers entitled: 5 Ideas For Using Infographics To Teach Classic Literature by Dawn Casey-Rowe.

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The practice of “sketch note-taking” or visual note-taking is a powerful way to engage this tool as well. Here are two of my favorite posts on that practice. In Sketch Your Thinking, literacy educator Teresa Gross describes how she uses anchor charts and sketch-notes to engage her students in multiple cross-curricular activities. In Teaching Vocabulary & Sketchnotes Heather Marshall—a 6th grade English/History/Media literacy teacher—provides a rich description of how she introduces this practice in “snack-sized” portions to her students. The post is full of wonderful examples of student work in and informative resources for teachers.

And last but not least, here's a wonderful visual representation by Patrick Reynolds--a graduate student studying Imaginative Education at Simon Fraser University. The image he has created portrays some of the main concepts we have been discussing on a course about relationships in learning.  In particular, he captures the important role of the teacher-knowledge relationships that is at the core of Imaginative Education approach. Needless to say, there are many opportunities for further discussion, interpretation, and exploration of these concepts through this image.  

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What You Can Do

For whatever you are teaching tomorrow, think:

How could your students play with information through different visual formats and, thus, deepen, expand, or demonstrate understanding?

Want To Learn More?

imaginED offers more information on imaginative teaching (PreK-post-secondary), engagement, inquiry, ecological education, educational discussion topics, lesson or unit plans and more.  

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Gillian Judson (@perfinker) teaches/writes/researches in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University in B.C., Canada, co-directs the Imaginative Education Research Group (IERG), and coordinates Imaginative Ecological Education (IEE) research and practice. Her work is primarily concerned with the role of imagination in all learning.  She also investigates how an ecological and imaginative approach to education can both increase students’ engagement with, and understanding of, the content of the curriculum but can show it in a light that can lead to a sophisticated ecological consciousness. 


Gillian writes on a range of educatonal topics but especially about imagination, creativity, wonder, story, and ecological/place-based teaching practices. She is author of the books Engaging Imagination in Ecological Education: Practical Strategies For Teaching (Pacific Educational Press, 2015) and A New Approach to Ecological Education:  Engaging Students’ Imaginations in Their World (New York:  Peter Lang; 2010). She most recently co-authored a book called Imagination and the Engaged Learner: Cognitive Tools for the Classroom. (New York: Teachers’ College Press; in press). 


She has also edited the book Teaching 360°: Effective Learning Through The Imagination (Rotterdam: Sense Publishing, 2008) and co-edited the books Engaging Imagination and Developing Creativity in Education (Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press; 2015) and Wonder-Full Education:  The Centrality of Wonder (New York: Routledge; 2013).


She started a blog in 2016. Learn all about imagination-focused practices (K-post secondary) at imaginED: education that inspires.

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Guest Wednesday, 16 August 2017