I am learning how to use metalanguage to examine visual texts so that I can understand the effects of the illustrator’s choices.
- I can define the following terms: salience and reading path.
- I can recognise the written aspects of the text that reveal cultural elements such as beliefs, traditions and customs.
- I can consider the traditional components of Chinese theatre and how these impact upon the performance of the script.
More information on the commonly understood arrangement of text types (including visual texts) can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Code and Convention.
Read the poem aloud to the class or listen to the audio recording. As students listen, they should record the number of legendary creatures listed (eight in total).
On the second listening, students should try to record as many of these creatures as they can, in the correct sequence. Then as a class write down, in order, the creatures, providing background information as required.
Listen to the poem again. This time, provide students with a copy of the text, without Anna Bron’s illustration. Ask students to visualise the poem as they listen to it.
Explicitly teach two visual literacy terms:
- Salience / salient image: the element of the image that stands out and is the first thing that grabs the viewer’s attention
- Reading pathways: the path a viewer takes through a text, from most to least salient image
Extension: you may also want to teach the term vector:
- Vector: a line that leads the viewer’s gaze from one part of the image to another
Explain that this is a tricky poem to illustrate. This is because there are eight mythical creatures mentioned, so the illustrator needs to consider which creature will be the salient image and how to place the creatures to create an effective reading path.
Instruct students to construct their own illustration of the poem, considering salience and reading path. The illustration could be completely hand drawn, or students could use a collage technique and incorporate sourced images of the creatures. Students should complete their illustration individually and secretly. Conduct a gallery walk so that students can compare the way that they have summarised and visually represented the text
Finally, display Anna Bron’s illustration. Deconstruct and annotate the image as a class by identifying and analysing:
- The salient image: the Sasquatch, which is the salient image due to its placement, in the centre of the image. This is an effective salient image because it is the first creature mentioned in the poem.
- The reading path: This is informed by the order the creatures are mentioned. The second creature, the abominable snowman appears directly above the Sasquatch, but then the creatures appear out of order, forcing the readers’ eyes to leap all over the page. This adds to the enjoyment of the poem as you are required to spot the creatures as they appear in the poem.
To conclude the activity, students may wish to conduct a similar deconstruction of their own illustration, or their peers.