We Colour the World

poem by Charles Ghigna , illustrated by Jasmine Seymour

Learning Intention:

I am learning how to identify the relationship between language and visual techniques so that I can explain the layout of multimodal texts.

Success Criteria:

  • I can define and identify a range of language and visual techniques including inclusive pronouns, gaze (demands and offer) and layout.
  • I can explain how language and visual techniques are combined to create meaning.
  • I can apply this knowledge to explain the specific choices made by an illustrator of a multimodal text.

Essential Knowledge:

More information about how writing and visual language convey meaning when they combine in commonly understood arrangements can be found in the English Textual Concepts video Code and Convention.

Read the poem as a class. Alternatively, if you have a digital subscription, you can listen to the poem as an audio recording.

After reading, ask the following questions to guide class discussion:

  • In the poem, who does ‘we’ refer to? (The children of the world.)
  • Who are the speakers in the poem? (The children, who refer to themselves inclusively as we.)
  • What is depicted in the illustration? (A circle of children waving at the reader.)
  • How does the illustration link to the text of the poem? (The poem is called ‘We colour the world’ and in the illustration the ‘we’ are children, and they appear to be from many cultures and parts of the world.)
  • Do you notice anything unusual about the illustration? (The reader is gazing up at the children. It is like we are standing below them.)

Explain that written and visual techniques are used to create meaning. Explicitly teach the following techniques and their effects:

  • Inclusive pronouns: the repeated use of ‘we’ (the inclusive first-person plural) creates a sense of commonality and rapport with the reader. As the target audience for the poem is young children, the speaker in the poem includes the reader as one of the children colouring the world.
  • Gaze: refers to where a figure is looking. In this image the children are looking directly at the reader. This is called a demand; the children are demanding the reader’s attention. This deepens the connection between the subject and the viewer.
  • Layout: the children are in the foreground, with a gentle nature scene in the background. A worm’s eye view is used with the viewer looking directly up at the children. This makes them look welcoming and friendly. It also makes them appear powerful – such as they have the power of happiness, and they can bring this to the world.

Ask the students what the meaning of the poem is. You could phrase this as the following question:

What messages about children is this poem trying to make?

Students provide suggestions. Ask students to find evidence of this meaning in the written text and in the image. Encourage students to use metalanguage. For example, some possible points students might make (with suggested examples) includes:

  1. Children bring happiness (Examples: “We laugh, and we sing” and the image shows happy facial expressions using a demand to invite the audience to share their joy).
  2. Children are happy throughout the day (Examples: “From morning to night” and the background of the image shows a gentle hue like dusk).

Extension: read the shape poem ‘Magpie’ featured in Countdown Issue 10 2022. Ask students to identify and analyse how language and visual techniques are used in this poem (particularly the layout of low angle / worm’s eye view and the gaze / demand). They should then compare the effect of these techniques across the two poems.

Some points of comparison may include:

  • In ‘We Colour the World’ the worm’s eye view allows us to better see the friendly, smiling faces of the children. In contrast, in ‘Magpie’ the worm’s eye view is literal and highlights the danger of the magpie as a predator.
  • In ‘We Colour the World’ the gaze of the children demands our attention and includes us in the poem. However, in ‘Magpie’, while the gaze is also a demand, it is demanding that we look at it to understand how threatening it is.