It dawned on me while I was introducing the CARP design principles to a grade 3 class that many students are unaware of visual literacy elements until the middle of elementary school. Yet, we expect them to design and create visual texts from as young as Kindergarten.
I wondered… why do we wait so long to teach these principles? It’s clear from the student council poster above that even by grade 5, design principles haven’t been transferred to every day creations of visual texts. I decided to investigate ways to implement design into the younger years, starting with grade 1.
I first learned about CARP through Keri-Lee Beasley‘s Design Secrets Revealed, which I described in my previous post: Looks Like CRAP. Her eBook is one that I’ve led workshops on, and am constantly referring to when planning and working with teachers and students. I’ve also promoted it in our staffroom as a resource all teachers in G3 and up should be using in their classrooms.
Since I work primarily with Early Years to Grade 1, I wanted to bring visual literacy and elements of design into the younger years. While the eBook is extremely engaging and differentiated with videos, definitions, external links and photos, I knew I would only be able to use some parts of it with a younger audience. For this reason, I decided to modify the principles from this eBook into a simple interactive Google Presentation that could be led with students as young as KG-G2.
I worked closely with one grade 1 teacher who has a small class of 10 students. We planned some lessons together and team-taught most of the sessions. We’ve noticed a huge improvement in the students’ design thinking. After this experience, I realised how beneficial it was to student learning to be introduced to these terms early on. For this reason, I’d like to extend this unit and collaborate with the other G1 teachers to implement this Visual Literacy Unit in their classrooms.
Some of the lessons I’ve developed in collaboration with the G1 teacher include:
- Tuning-In: CARP Jr. Google Presentation ~ slides act as discussion point and students have a chance to share their thoughts and ideas to improve texts. We explored each term and looked at examples.
- Individual/Paired Visual Text Exploration: focusing on each term at a time (what does Contrast look like? What does Alignment look like? etc)
- Students re-design/improve a visual text they created by hand, implementing the CARP principles.
My Final Project will be a 6 week unit on Visual Literacy in Early Elementary (KG-G2). During these 6 weeks I will work closely with a G1 classroom teacher to embed these design elements meaningfully into the students’ learning. What I learned from trialling it in the smaller class was that 6 year olds move much more slowly, and need a lot of practice and repetition. I’m hoping that through different learning engagements and purposeful practice, students will be able to transfer the skills acquired through thoughtful design to their every day work and visual text creations.
Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?
Developing visual literacy awareness in students is essential to building strong design skills. As I mentioned in my previous post visual literacy is one of the necessary elements of 21st century multi-literacies students need to be well-versed in. It’s also an area of learning at our school that is often neglected. It is evident in student-created posters and publications that design is an area all students would benefit learning more about. I also noticed that there are very few design resources accessible to early readers. I wanted to design a unit that other KG -G2 teachers could modify and improve for their own learning contexts.
What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?
One concern is the complex terminology and the high level of EAL (English as Additional Language) learners. I will need to monitor their progress and make modifications as we progress through the unit.
I have a strong professional relationship with the G1 team and one teacher has agreed to let me implement the unit in her classroom. We will develop and team teach the unit together so it aligns with their Unit of Inquiry (in January-March).
I would like to modify the unit for KG and G2 classes as well but will need to first trial it in the G1 classroom. It would be ideal to embed the CARP principles as part of the curriculum (KG-G2) so that students are well versed in the terminology and have had lots of practice implementing these concepts by the time they reach grade 3. However, that is a ‘big picture’ decision that needs to be made by the curriculum coordinators. So for now, we just need to address it in the classrooms and make sure students are achieving an understanding of design.
What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?
I will need to really think carefully about the students developmental levels and English ability and tailor the lessons to suit their needs. Current resources for teaching design principles are aimed at students who can already read, write and work independently. I will need to modify the activities for shorter attention spans, and embed some kinesthetics and music/rhymes to help teach the basic principles of design. Also, students will need a lot more visuals to grasp the complex terminology. The focus will also be more on exposure to these new terms, with some opportunities to practice basic implementation of these concepts. It’s a process and not all students will be developmentally ready to produce visual texts that meet all CARP principles.
What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?
Students will be using their observation skills, communication skills and will develop spatial-awareness as they look at different visual texts and how the page is organised. They will also become more reflective and thoughtful about their work as they carefully plan out their visual texts. Students will also develop appreciation for the aesthetic and become open-minded to different perspectives as they develop a personal style using the CARP principles in their design.
Here is my final UBD Project: