Picturing Words

Picturing Words

Pictures reach audiences more directly than the alone. They communicate the author’s tone and approach to the subject, and enhance our understanding and enjoyment of the text. Illustrations explain complicated ideas at a glance and even teach those who cannot read.

The next few weeks I’ll be helping teachers and their students (mostly 4th graders) transform video clips and photos into 1 – 3 minute films, ready to submit to several regional film competitions and events, so I’ve been thinking about the power of images.

Picturing the written word: The above image and quote are from the Smithsonian’s stunning online exhibit Picturing Words: the Power of Book Illustration. As a teacher, I’ve observed over and over how illustrations provide scaffolding to emerging readers. As a parent, I transformed my new-born daughter’s room into the setting from Margaret Wise Brown’s Good Night Moon. (A nice lady in our local hardware store helped find just the right shade of green. OK, and for the picture of the bears, my husband insisted on using some card-playing dogs, but I did have the cow-jumping-over-the-moon picture.) As an auntie whose Christmas present is always a book, my nieces and newphews all have a growing collections of Chris Van Allsburg ‘s books.

Picturing the spoken word: I still claim the title of Queen of Bad Photography, and so I am always on the look for mentor “texts,” Who would argue that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but is there a difference if those words are written or spoken (narrated)? I’m thinking not so much.  Thanks to mentoring and resources shared by Krishna Harrison-Munoz and Mathew Needleman, I’m starting to get a handle on the purpose and possibilities behind the basic camera shots and camera angles.

Shifting from story to film: About a year ago, NWP colleague Kevin H. referred me to a pretty amazing book: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. With 284 pages of original drawings that students can identify as establishing shots, close ups, extreme close ups, etc., I think you’ll agree with the publisher’s description: “...Brian Selznick breaks open the novel form to create an entirely new reading experience. Here is a stunning, cinematic tour de force from a boldly innovative storyteller, artist, and bookmaker.” Just seems as though “filmmaker” should be added to that list. Checkout the flash slideshow for a glimpse into the storyline and a possible transition from written word to spoken word.

I’m thinking that the written word is equal to or even more powerful than the accompanying illustration. But for the spoken word, I think it can be overriden by the accompanying camera angles and shots. So I’ll end with a new favorite resource for students: Photojojo: Super-Secret Photo Projects Just for Kids – Back off, Grown Ups! (posted to Instructify by Alice Mercer).

*Image from: http://www.sil.si.edu/exhibitions/picturingwords/

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