I was looking at the Activities section in Selfe’s essay, and wondered how I might be able to fit visual texts into my college ESL writing courses. I recently tweaked a comparison/contrast assignment to include more visual pre-writing activities. Here is the link to the assignment introduction PowerPoint:
Sequence of Events for Comparison/Contrast Assignment Intro
- Begin with class discussion of image #1 (The Dong Family). What do they see? Think critically about the role of food and why families consume what they do.
- Display image #2 (the Revis family). What is evident in this image? Generate discussion about the appearance of food and the role it plays in this family’s life.
- Introduce the process of comparing and contrasting. Display the images side-by-side and draw a T chart on the white board (maybe ask students if they know what a T chart is, and if someone does, have him/her explain?) one side labeled “comparisons (similarities)” and the other “contrasts (differences)”. Have students call out answers while I write on the board.
- Explain that the T chart is one way of organizing information, and another graphic organizer that is particularly useful for comparing and contrasting is the Venn Diagram (maybe ask students if anyone has ever used one, and if they can explain what it is?). Ask students to choose their learning partner for the day and distribute one Diagram to each pair. Display the two new side-by-side images (the Aboubakar and Ayme families) and ask each pair to compare and contrast the images using the Venn Diagram.
- Come together as a class and ask for a volunteer to list student responses on the Venn Diagram on the board. Call on each pair to give one response that is different from their classmates.
- Explain “next steps” and wrap up.
While the assignment does not call for students to create their own visual essays, it might be a first step in the process. Students are asked to analyze images (without a lot of text) and they are also asked to access the college’s online course management system to post comments (a way to make use of technology). I may also be able to modify this assignment to be more of a visual essay (at least as a lead-in to the text-based essay) by asking students to collect various photographs and present them in a comparison/contrast format, using the visual impact, coherence, salience, and organization that Selfe references to evaluate their work.