The Battle of the Four Seasons

story by Cara Krenn , illustrated by Queenie Chan

Learning Intention:

I am learning about the terms used in visual literacy so that I can understand the effect of an illustrator’s choices.

Success Criteria:

  • I can identify and define the terms salience, framing and layout.
  • I can experiment with a range of design choices to create meaning in my own images.
  • I can explain why illustrators have made particular design choices.

Essential Knowledge:

  • More information about using visual design techniques to create meaning can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Code and Convention.
  • More information about the role of goals and motivations in the process of characterisation can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Character.

Prior to introducing students to the story, define, explain and provide examples of three terms relating to visual design:

  • Salience: the part of the image that grabs your attention first. It is created by design choices such as the size of the object, its colour and use of contrasting colours, vectors, or its placement on the page in relation to the objects around it.
  • Framing: a border around the image that can be soft or defined. Frames are used to separate or unite objects in the image.
  • Layout: the placement of the characters and objects in the foreground, background, centre, margin, left, right, top or bottom.

The picture book ‘Into the Forest’ by Anthony Browne offers excellent examples of the above techniques.

Read the story aloud to the class, without revealing the illustrations. Alternatively, if you have a digital subscription you can listen to the audio recording. Ensure that students can answer the following questions:

  • Who are the four main characters? (Four siblings: Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.)
  • At the beginning of the story, what is their relationship like? (They are in competition with each other.)
  • At the end of the story, how has their relationship changed? (They have learned to take turns and exist in harmony.)

Provide students with the following extract from the beginning of the story:

“‘I’m the greatest!’ yelled Winter, spraying her icy breath.

‘No, I am!’ boomed Summer, with a hot gust of wind.

‘I’m the most beautiful!’ said Spring, flowers trailing behind her.

‘No, I am!’ argued Autumn, leaves dropping in his wake.”

Following this, distribute a list of adjectives linked to the appearance and character traits of the four seasons. Words could include: blue, red, green, orange, frozen, fiery, verdant, changing. Students allocate these words to the appropriate character to build on their understanding of their separate characterisations. If you have a digital subscription this can be done as an interactive activity.

Next, ask students to illustrate this exchange, using the visual design techniques of salience, framing and layout. For example, each of the seasons will need something eye-catching in their design, such as contrasting colours. Their framing should include strong or defined borders to indicate the competition between them and the layout should indicate they are all equal size as they are equally powerful.

After students have completed their illustrations, they can conduct a Gallery Walk to peer review the illustrations and to ensure that they have understood the three elements of design.

Reveal Queenie Chan’s three illustrations for the story. Compare the first and second illustrations (which use similar elements of design) with the third illustration. In all the illustrations, Chan uses the bold contrasting colours of the siblings’ hair to achieve salience. However, in the first two illustrations, she also uses vectors created by the siblings’ hair or breath. These vectors create defined edges, framing the siblings so that they look divided and in conflict with one another. The third image contrasts to the first two, as the salient image, the earth, is in the centre of the image. The siblings are standing around the earth with a soft frame between each of them. This shows that they are united at the end of the story.

Extension: instruct students to visit Queenie Chan’s portfolio to explore other examples of her design choices and use of salience, faming and layout.