Inferring meaning between words and images

Synthesis occurs as a reader summarises what has happened and gives it personal meaning.

To synthesise information in texts, students need strategies to help them locate important information and recognise it when it is presented in a different format. They need to know how to link related pieces of information to fully understand a text. Sometimes these relationships can be explicitly stated and information is often found near causal words such as because, so and therefore. In other cases, information may need to be linked from sentence to sentence or across paragraphs. This process of synthesis cannot be undertaken without evaluating the ideas and concepts within the text.

Connecting ideas using text and image

Teachers need to provide students with the metalanguage of visual literacy and model how to interpret the following types of images:

  • photographs
  • realistic
  • diagrams
  • cut aways
  • illustrations
  • exploded images
  • cartoons
  • classification charts
  • websites
  • artwork
  • graphs
  • time lines
  • captions
  • flowcharts
  • sections/plans
  • analogical images
  • transformational images.

It is important for students to consider the images and words together in picture books. Good illustrators often say there is no point in illustrating what has already been told in words. Ron Brooks states:

With every book my first rule of thumb has been to not draw what is there already in the words. I try to find something from behind or between the words, something unsaid, something from the moment behind and beneath the moment, something about where those words come from, something from and about the heart, to then add to the words.

Activity 1 – telling stories through pictures

Rule up 2 columns:

  • 1st column – copy the text from one page
  • 2nd column – list all the things shown in corresponding illustration.

Have students consider how the illustrator has gone beyond the written text through the use of art elements and media.

Images in texts often provide explanations for concepts in the words or vice versa. It is therefore important to show students examples of how pictures and words can be in different relationships as follows:

  • equivalent meaning in both image and words (as in labels)
  • elaborated meaning with same represented participants/nouns and processes/verbs but different circumstances
  • complementary meaning with different participants/ nouns
  • complementary meaning with different processes/ verbs
  • divergent meaning, for example, some Alison Lester picture books.

Activity 2 – identifying different image-text relations

Students in pairs select a book with pictures and decide on each page whether the meaning in the words and pictures is the same, slightly different, one adds meaning to the other or they are different.

References

Australian curriculum reference – ACELY1680: Interacting with others: Use comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning and begin to evaluate texts by drawing on a growing knowledge of context, text structures and language features. ACELY1692: Interacting with others: Use comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning to expand content knowledge, integrating and linking ideas and analysing and evaluating texts.

NSW syllabus reference – EN2-4A: Use comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning to expand content knowledge, integrating and linking ideas and analysing and evaluating texts.

NSW literacy continuum reference: Comprehension, Cluster 10, Marker 1: Interprets text by inferring connections, causes and consequences during reading. Comprehension, Cluster 10, Marker 2: Responds to and interprets texts by discussing the differences between literal and inferred meanings.

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