Why my grandmother didn’t want me to be an artist: Art as text, caves and flickering.

by Emma Louise Pratt


Image Chauvet Cave: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:18_PanneauDesLions(PartieDroite)BisonsPoursuivisParDesLions.jpg

In this article I explore what art as text can mean. I also present a couple of examples that you might actually find interesting to explore with your students.

A couple of years ago, a wise friend gifted me the curiously named “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” (Herzog, 2010). This beautifully made documentary is about some of the oldest surviving examples of visual art we have today – in the cave of Chauvet in France. The drawings are over 30,000 years old.

I’d never seen the cave and I was so transfixed by what were for me, images so fresh and so simultaneously direct and complex that I felt tears prickle at the corner of my eyes. I’m a mum, and easily moved to tears one could argue, but moved I was. Moved, not only as a painter and drawer, but also as a person. Our ancestors reached out to me over 30,000 years through these drawings that looked like they could have been made yesterday.

The arts are intricately woven through the fabric of our daily communication. Our world is enveloped in these visual, aural, kinesthetic, and performance based communications that are as old as speech itself. Visual communication in forms of artifacts and images have been found dating back 100,000 years.

The community in that cave would have watched as the images took shape around them. How many people participated in making them? What did it mean for them? Did they share stories about the animals they had drawn as the flames of the hearth cast dancing shadows up the walls and across the images, making them dance too? Whatever they talked about, those images surrounded them in their life, in that cave. They would have accompanied children as they lay down to sleep, slipping stealthily into their dreams.


30,000 years later, in a small New Zealand town…

One day, out of the blue, Grandma came to visit me at the museum where I worked organizing education and public programmes.

“Grandma come in. Look around!”

“No thanks love, I’ll wait for you at the door.”

She never came in. We had a chat outside and then she went off shopping.

In many cultures today, the “fine arts”, despite many attempts to break down perceptions, are often pigeon-holed and associated with a somewhat elitist world. My grandparents were never comfortable in a gallery. Museums were possibly a little more accessible. The arts in general baffled and intimidated them. They viewed them all with suspicion, with their revolutionary political views, or alliances with “society” and patrons. The arts were out to make them feel stupid. The arts were found inside uncomfortable places, places that were irrelevant to them. So they remained outside. Art School was the last place they wanted me to go.

Unlike my grandparents, I had another cultural experience of the arts.I was lucky enough to live some years in a community that was predominantly Māori. The arts were woven throughout daily life to such an extent, that one couldn’t see where one “art” ended and another began. The arts belonged to everyone and they were an important wider text for reading what was going on. The ability to decode them formed part of the multi-modal and multi-dimensional literacy required to meaningfully navigate that culture.

Tattoo as a multi-dimensional text

As an example of this multi-dimensional quality, I will use the case of the tattoo. In New Zealand, tattoo is a sacred art form. Recently, a member of the New Zealand parliament, the Labour MP for Hauraki-Waikato Nanaia Mahuta, took part in a traditional moko (tattooing) ceremony that paid tribute to both the former Māori queen and the current king. It was held at his marae (tribal meeting place), called Waahi Pā. She had a tattoo put on her chin, which is a traditional place for Maori women to wear a tattoo. The following story has been adapted from an article by Mihingarangi Forbes (2016), Māori Issues Correspondent for Radio New Zealand . I have added translations of Māori concepts:


Ms Mahuta is the niece of the late Māori queen, Te Arikinui Te Atairangi Kaahu, and a close relation to the current Māori monarch, KingiTuheitia.

Over the weekend, she and fourteen other women had lines of lineage etched into their chins, called the “moko kauae”, by four well-respected tohunga (Tā Moko–tattoo experts).

Her reasons for doing it and what it represented for her were many: “…my walk in life and kind of the way I want to go forward and make a contribution. That’s the main thing for me.”

While having the moko etched into her chin, she thought of those who’d worn them before her.

“My tupuna [ancestor] – the one that comes to mind was Piupiu, my great-grandmother. She was a strong woman in her own right, a contemporary of Te Puea [Princess Te Puea Herangi, CBE (9 November 1883 – 12 October 1952) a Māori leader from New Zealand’s Waikato region]. So, on my Maniapoto [tribe] side I draw a lot of strength of character from there, and my Ngāpuhi [tribe] side, so she came to mind immediately.”

The design, which is unique to her, also replicates patterns from the wharenui [meeting house], called Tane-i-te-pupuke-at, the marae [official meeting place of a tribe], where the ceremony took place.

And it was someone very close to Ms Mahuta who inspired her to take part.

“Actually my daughter was the one that put the challenge out there so I embraced the challenge and she saw it and said ‘Mama, I love your moko [tattoo], I love your moko'”.


As you can see, this tattoo isn’t just a text on her chin, an art work separated from other things to be read. Time and timing, space and place, carving, building, tribal ground, community, kinship, connection, ceremony, meditation, honour, recognition, duty, humility. These concepts, seen and decoded in a Maori context, make the tattoo, her moko kauae, a text that reaches out and joins into much more than itself. You need to be literate in all the parts of that ecosystem to understand that tattoo.

There has been a lot of debate over the years of cultural appropriation. That is when someone, more commonly from a colonizer state, takes the cultural artifact of another group and makes use of it for themselves. Think of how the Mexican flower skull, used for ancient celebrations during El Día de los Muertos, has become a fashionable Halloween costume. As a New Zealander, I see “tribal tattoos” frequently on the arms and legs and backs of people here in Europe. They are found on unknown arms, all mixed up and decontextualized. A Maori tattoo artist would say that this type of “Maori Tribal Tattoo” is no longer a tribal tattoo of theirs. It is profaned. Appropriated. A meaningless set of squiggles.

The questions to ask are:

  • Is a Maori tattoo still tribal art if it hasn’t been done by a Maori artist?
  • What about a non-Maori artist respectfully following the protocols. Is it a Maori tattoo? Is it “traditional”? Does this mean an art form can only be done by someone who has the genetics of the people who traditionally perform or make it?
  • What if the design is changed and no longer reads “correctly”? Does it matter?
  • Or if a traditional men’s leg tattoo from the Pacific, considered a sacred thing, is printed onto some Nike lycra leggings for women?


Yes, lots of tough questions. But this is what the arts create. Provocation and questions. It is a text that flickers shadows from its hearth in the cave, making everything seem suddenly different.

Art as Text?

I can see art theorists waggling their fingers in the air and bursting their buttons to argue against my calling art a text. So, yes, I’ve called art a text, and we’ve looked at how art in some cultures forms part of a wider literacy about the world around them and is used in certain fixed ways to convey messages and meaning. I’ve also raised questions about appropriation of culture and arts practice. So yes, alright, now it’s your turn art theorists.“What about the place of interpretation?”, they ask.“Why can’t someone take what they see and give it a new interpretation?”

Artists, and conceptual artists in particular, in the 20th and 21st Century, though there are examples from earlier, have worked to overturn standard canons and to explore possibilities of tension and struggle between a cultural practice and experiment with making new meaning. This brings us to the arguments between images and written or aural/oral text. What makes a text a text?

Text. It’s become a very popular word since the 1950s according to Google definitions. The word in our world of English teaching has come from the branch of linguistics known as Text Linguistics,and, as a concept, has evolved from just considering sentence and word to also considering  a text’s setting, i.e. the way in which it is situated in an interactional, communicative context as well as cultural context.

But the issue with art is that it loves to evade being pinned down as soon as we’ve pinned it. It will often take an existing “text” and invent something new with it. And here’s a big question for you:  Should art “say” anything at all? Should it “speak”? When the lights go out in the gallery, does it continue to speak? Or does its existence in front of you mean that it is you who makes it speak? Enough. We’re heading perilously into the depths here. The arts don’t always “speak” to us as verbal language does, it doesn’t explain or talk, but instead offers other possibilities.

“Images, like texts, have a rhetoric of arrangements which signify, but there is no syntax that articulates their parts and binds them into a whole.” (Dillon, 1999)

 “All images are polysemous; they imply, underlying their signifiers, a ‘floating chain’ of signifieds, the reader [is] able to choose some and ignore others.”-Roland Barthes. (as cited in Dillon, 1999)

Polysemous means to have many meanings. Signifieds are the concepts expressed by a sign. The Spanish philosopher Emilio Lledó (2000)  argues that the written text is an echo. We lose part of its meaning the author intended with time and space. But it’s a good echo for the most part. The power of the arts is that it loves its ambiguity. It takes its “floating chains” of signifieds and plays.

Mining the Visual World

American artist Fred Wilson broke ground when he presented his exhibition“Mining the Museum: An Installation” (Return of the whipping post: Mining the museum, 2013) in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, 1992 . The exhibition took place in an historical museum where the artist explored and presented the collections according to very different criteria to what had been used before. The new juxtaposition of one object to another purposefully created tensions. There was very little written interpretation, but what there was added a new tension between written text and image. His aim was to reshuffle our assumptions. Calling it “Mining the Museum” was play on words in itself, as it was also inferring that he wanted “to make the museum mine”. Unlike my grandmother, who never went past the reception desk, Wilson went in and owned the place. What was successful about what he did was in the way he interpreted and presented the collections of the museum was that it was suggestive and provocative, but wasn’t fixed or moralizing. Image can do that. Its polysemous nature means it can show but not always“tell”.

Consider this visual “text” below.



Consider its context. A typical history museum in Baltimore: Maryland Historical Society

  • How do Museums typically categorize objects?
  • Who collected these objects and put them in a museum?
  • What is the history of the area where this Museum is?
  • Who typically makes decisions about what is displayed in a Museum? Whose point of view might it embody?
  • Consider who the artist is: Fred Wilson is an American artist. He describes himself as of “African, Native American, European and Amerindian” descent.
  • How does the artist’s identity inform what and how you see this exhibition?


Now read the Museum “Label” for this exhibit: “Metalwork 1793-1880.”

What information is normally on a museum label? How is the artist playing with the idea of “Labels”? The written text and visual “text” create a powerful tension and work because of their simplicity. What do the dates refer to?

Here’s one more image taken of this exhibition. Look carefully at what you see and consider both the traditional categorizations and the artist’s new one:



Museum label: “Cabinetmaking, 1820-1960”


This is what makes the arts complex and endlessly thought provoking.  As I have described, in many cultural contexts, the arts form an intrinsic part of language ecosystems. Back in the Chauvet cave, visual art wasn’t separated from everyday life. It reflected it, and informed it. However, thousands of years later, my grandmother couldn’t have felt more separated from it. We’ve seen how muddy things get when artists take cultural norms of communication and invert, challenge, or appropriate them, bringing outside ideas in, and being informed by different times and circumstances. They challenge us to consider the fixed state of things by unfixing them. It’s an uncomfortable state at times, I’ll admit, but we’re dealing with a world of texts that flicker and move, some more consciously than others. We are multi-modal and multi-dimensional in our communication. We have been so for more than 100,000 years.


The new problem facing us is the quantity of visual material we digest daily is like nothing seen in human history. My children, had they been born in the Chauvet cave, would have contemplated those images as they formed and were added to over time. The images they looked on would have reflected the world directly outside the cave, speaking to them of what they knew. And they would have been some of the few images they ever saw.

Today, we hardly have time to register what we’re seeing before it’s gone. And even if we do give time to really “see”, how can we meaningfully interpret anything, given the little time invested in learning to negotiate these “floating chains” of meaning? To be continued….





emma-louise-pratt-in-studio-paintings-show-november-2016-new-zealandInvolved in all aspects of ELT since 1999, Emma began her teaching career working in museum community education projects. Emma is currently Director at Frameworks Education Group and founded ELTcampus in 2014, an online learning platform for teacher development. The TEFL Preparation Course was shortlisted for an ELTon in Innovation in Teacher Resources. She edits, designs and writes for the ELT Today newsletter and its monthly podcast.

She works in teacher development for CLIL, has an interest in the application of teaching artistry in LT, is a practising visual artist and member of the Visual Arts Circle for Language Learning.


Personal Website: www.emmapratt.com
ELTcampus: www.eltcampus.com
Contact training@eltcampus.com
Twitter: @prattemmalouise @eltcampus



Visual Literacy in the Language Curriculum


To inaugurate the website of the Visual Arts Circle we have invited Dr. Sylvia Karastathi of New York College, Athens, Greece who has a PhD and post-doctoral studies from the University of Cambridge, to write about the increasing important role of visual literacy in English language teaching.


Few language teachers can claim that they never use still or moving images in their lessons; yet, this standard practice is rarely touched upon in teacher training curricula on the assumption the way to introduce images into lessons is self-evident. This short article starts by introducing some key ELT resources on using images in the classroom; it then goes on to argue that we need to approach images not simply as an aid but as a key component of “multimodal communicative competence”.

The Status of the Image

In his 1966 ground-breaking study The Visual Element in Language Teaching Pit Corder made the useful distinction between “talking about images” and “talking with images”, differentiating between physical description and personal response. Since then, practical books such as Andrew Wright’s Pictures for Language Learning (1990), Jamie Keddie’s Images (2009), Ben Goldstein’s Working with Images (2009) and Peter Grundy’s et. al. English Through Art (2011) have suggested a wide variety of engaging activities that exploit the power of still images in the classroom and demonstrate their potentials to facilitate language learning. More recently, principled uses of the moving image in the classroom have become the focus of discussion in ELT with publications such as Ben Goldstein and Paul Diver’s Language Learning with Digital Video (2014) and Kieran Donaghy’s Film in Action (2015).

Images have long been a source of instructional material in English language teaching. Used traditionally with young learners in the form of flashcards and posters, images are nowadays easily available through digital technologies for all level classrooms. According to Wright (1990) pictures contribute to student interest and motivation, arresting the attention of even the most disengaged student; they are emotionally engaging and they offer opportunities for the expression of feelings and experience without having a right or wrong answer (9). Images build context, promote multi-sensory learning, and “reactivate target language” (Keddie 2009:9). Yet, although the ELT community largely agrees on their multiple benefits for language education, their systematic inclusion and exploitation tends to disappear in advanced level and exam classes (Wright, 1990:2).

Since they are thought to facilitate the learning process, it is interesting to look at how images are used in coursebooks. Through an analysis of the function of images in three intermediate ELT coursebooks aimed at young adults and adults, David Hill (2013) finds that over half of the pictures (photos and drawings) are used only for purposes of decoration.[1] This is a waste of effort on the part of the publisher and a wasted opportunity for learner and teacher. Of course, Hill adds, experienced teachers would use decorative images, nonetheless, to arouse learners’ interest by encouraging them to talk about the picture and how it could relate to their own lives. As Hill finds out, the pictures that are attached to activities are used for fairly low-level language practice, and he concludes by stating that: “coursebooks seem to offer very few opportunities for students to use pictures to stimulate their own inner meanings” (Hill, 2013:165). Recently, however, there has been a trend towards a more critical and creative use of images in coursebooks – for example in Life (National Geographic Learning), Eyes Open/Uncover (Cambridge University Press) and The Big Picture (Richmond) – which is a positive development and shows that there is movement towards the more deliberate usage of images

The discussion so far reflects a particular view of the function of images in the classroom: that of the occasional use in the form of a visual aid, which is there to enhance the practice of language skills or to enliven the teaching of grammar and vocabulary. The rest of the discussion seeks to explore how the approach to images in the ELT classroom is beginning to change in view of a literacy revolution known as multiliteracies pedagogy.

Multiliteracies Pedagogy

The emergence of visual culture in the 21st century has brought students in daily contact with numerous image-texts in contrast to the predominance of print texts or oral texts that used to dominate educational contexts of the past. Increasingly “educators have looked at other sign systems such as those used in music, art, or film that could be used by students in a variety of subject areas” (Begoray, 2001:202). This complexity of semiotic systems that students of today need to learn to decode also demands multiple and new forms of literacy.

A pioneering group known as the New London Group came together in the 1990s to propose a new set of priorities for literacy education now known as “a pedagogy of multiliteracies”. They proposed that the shifts in meaning making and representation that affected the sectors of “work, citizenship and personal life” in our era needed to also lead to changing attitudes to literacy teaching and learning (Cope & Kalantzis, 2009:166). Two concepts emerged as priorities: multilingualism and multimodality. According to the group, the forms of contemporary meaning are “increasingly multimodal, with linguistic, visual, audio, gestural and spatial modes of meaning becoming increasingly integrated in everyday media and cultural practices” (Cope & Kalantzis, 2009:166). To address these changing communication needs a pedagogy of multiliteracies is needed, where students would learn to “read and write multimodal texts” (166). Within the framework of multiliteracies pedagogy, visual literacy has emerged as an important priority for educational curricula.

What is Visual Literacy?

Being a multifaceted and interdisciplinary concept, visual literacy is not easy to define. Used for the first time in 1969 by John Debes, the term has gained significant critical currency, and a widely-accepted working definition of visual literacy states that:

In the context of human, intentional visual communication, visual literacy refers to a group of largely acquired abilities i.e. the abilities to understand (read), and to use (write) images, as well as to think and learn in terms of images.

(Avgerinou, 2007:46)

According to an earlier definition, when we talk about visual literacy we talk about “the active reconstruction of past visual experience with incoming visual messages to obtain meaning” (Sinatra, 1986:5).

The graph below shows four important aspects of Visual Literacy


Figure 1: The Components of the Visual Literacy (VL) Theory (from Avgerinou & Pettersson, 2011)

Despite the problems of definition, it is generally accepted that “visual language is a complex code that must be learned for true comprehension”, and that “the VL [visual literacy] skills are (a) learnable, (b) teachable, and (c) capable of development and improvement” (Avgerinou & Pettersson, 2011:8&9). These propositions constitute an important argument for the introduction of visual literacies skills into the curriculum; and indeed the new literacies manifesto has been highly influential, becoming the basis for the revision of many national curricula.

Curriculum Design for 21st century – Viewing and Representing

The recognition that visual literacy needs to be integrated into the curriculum is not really news for curriculum designers. The influence of Howard Gardner’s (1993) theory of multiple intelligences (MI theory) has led to the recognition that instructional material should cater to different modalities, and should provide a variety of input in order to maximize learning. In the language divisions of education ministries in Canada, USA, Australia, and Singapore, for example, curriculum planning has moved on to the integration of two new skills next to the traditional language arts of reading, writing, listening and speaking; skills that promote multimodal literacy and make it an official part of the curriculum: viewing and visually representing.

According to Deborah Begoray of the University of Victoria, the Canadian common curriculum framework states that:

Viewing is an active process of attending to and comprehending visual media such as television, advertising images, films, diagrams, symbols, photographs, videos, drama, drawings, sculpture, and paintings.

Representing enables students to communicate information and ideas through a variety of media.

(Begoray, 2001:202)

Examples of visually representing can include: a semantic or concept map, a graph or chart, photographs, computer-generated icons, drawings.

Similarly in the revised English Language curriculum of Singapore, the traditional productive and receptive skills have been augmented with the two new skills of viewing and representing. And these are integrated with “Listening, Reading, Speaking and Writing to take into account the importance of developing information, media and visual literacy skills in the teaching and learning of EL” (English Language Syllabus, 2010:16).

The learning objectives in the integrated reading and viewing skills include: students need to be able to “construct meaning from visual texts (e.g. pictures, diagrams, charts, icons, maps, graphs, tables)” (33), and “identify and analyse techniques (e.g. colour, pictures, sound effects) used in written and visual texts to achieve a variety of purposes” (39).

Multimodality and ELT

Although TESOL professionals have been using images with great effectiveness and enthusiasm, Gunther Kress, Professor of Education at the Institute of Education of University of London, somehow provocatively declares that they have not yet embraced the opportunities of the literacy revolution to address an expanded notion of communication that is multimodal:

Nearly every text that I look at uses two modes of communication: (a) language as writing and (b) image. Yet TESOL professionals continue to act as though language fully represented the meanings they wish to encode and communicate.

(Kress, 2000:337)

Another researcher adds that “in fact it is necessary to redress the notion of support altogether in ESOL instruction such that the visual and the verbal can exist in classrooms reconfigured as multimodal complexities” (Britsch, 2009:712-713).

These two voices from a leading journal in the field, TESOL Quarterly, encourage teachers and teacher educators to reconsider their views of communicative competence. As the concept of literacy is expanding to move beyond the three Rs reading and writing and arithmetic, and indeed beyond print to include the digital, the visual and the multimedial, educational systems and the TESOL world are starting to address these new literacy needs, and acknowledge that students need skills to evaluate and interpret still and moving image texts. Talks in TESOL conferences, address the use of iPads, films, digital storytelling, interactive whiteboards, GoogleMaps and so many other digital media. It is indeed exciting the way ICT has been embraced by the ELT community, as a useful tool that promotes engagement and new learning opportunities. But, although much attention has been given to digital tools which produce mainly visual media, visual literacy is largely ignored in TESOL conferences, often subsumed under the focus on digital literacies, revealing the overall misinterpretation of its changing role in the ELT field.

The acceptance of a variety of forms of multimodal communication are evidence that we are indeed thinking intensely about the visual in the ELT world, but are we still thinking of it as support or aid? Then perhaps it is time to see it moving to center stage.

Visual Literacy Micro-Skills

As the new skills are introduced into the curricula of the future, how can we develop our own and our students’ viewing abilities? And what does knowing how to view mean?

As with other skills, a helpful first move is to break viewing down to micro-skills. In order to hone our viewing abilities we need first of all to observe carefully. We can inspect, notice, visualize in our mind’s eye, analyze compositional relations, think about detail and ground, and then perhaps subsequently write a detailed description of our observations; this writing of a description often transforms itself into an intuitive interpretation and imagination.

According to research by Avgerinou (2007), who is the editor of the Journal Visual Literacy, eleven visual literacy abilities have been identified:


  1. Visualization
  2. Critical Viewing
  3. Visual Reasoning
  4. Visual Discrimination
  5. Visual Thinking
  6. Visual Association
  7. Visual Reconstruction
  8. Constructing Meaning
  9. Re-Constructing Meaning
  10. Knowledge of Visual Vocabulary & Definitions
  11. Knowledge of Visual Conventions

In this new literacy paradigm teachers need to receive training in visual literacy and media production. Indeed, it is suggested that teachers need to develop their own viewing and representing skills. We tend to think that being a good teacher is about having good oral skills, of being an effective speaker; and voice is indeed extremely important, but it seems that we additionally need to be “skillful in the visual domain” (Begoray, 2003:192). Aspects of visual literacy training need to be included in the syllabus of pre-service and in-service teacher training courses if we want to empower teachers in an era of multimodal communication and enable better collaboration with their students.


Currently, in schools across the world, students are expected to interpret and present complex visual ideas, using a variety of multimedia applications without serious direct instruction. If it is true then that our world is full of powerful visual images that continually bombard our students, it is important to teach them to resist the passivity, apathy and numbness they might feel toward the visual, and instead help them analyze the rhetorical techniques and meaning making mechanisms in operation in visual texts – that is, to make them active viewers. The fact that the nature of contemporary communication has changed into a multimodal one, would lead us to rethink the construct of communicative competence. According to Royce “TESOL professionals need to be able to talk and think seriously about multimodal communication because they need to help learners develop multimodal communicative competence” (2002:192).

By approaching images not merely as an aid, or support, but rather as a significant component of the experience of communicating in a foreign language, we help students slow down, look closely, reflect and take ownership of the image through writing, speaking and creating. These are all empowering practices that cultivate the 21st century skills of viewing and visually representing, which our students are going to need as citizens, future employees and life-long learners.

In order for ELT teachers to be able to understand multimodal communication and help their learners develop multimodal communicative competence there is an urgent need for pre-service and in-teach training in the role of multimodality and visual literacy in language education.


Works Cited

Argerinou, Maria D., and Rune Pettersson, ‘Toward a Cohesive Theory of Visual Literacy’, Journal of Visual Literacy, 30:2 (2011), 1-19.

Avgerinou, Maria D., ‘Towards a Visual Literacy Index’, Journal of Visual Literacy, 27:1 (2007), 29-46.

Begoray, Deborah, ‘Through a Class Darkly: Visual Literacy in the Classroom’, Canada Journal of Education, 26:2 (2001), 201-17.

———, ‘Integrating the Literacies of Viewing and Visually Representing with Content Reading’, in Integrating Multiple Literacies in K-8 Classrooms: Cases, Commentaries, and Practical Applications, ed. by Michael C. McKenna Janet C. Richards (Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003), pp. 190-209.

Britsch, Susan, ‘Esol Educators and the Experience of Visual Literacy’, TESOL Quarterly, 43:4 (2009), 710-21.

Cope, Bill and Mary Kalantzis, ‘“Multiliteracies”: New Literacies, New Learning’, Pedagogies: An International Journal, 4:3 (2009), 164-95.

Corder, Pit, The Visual Element in Language Teaching (London: Longman, 1966).

Debes, John, ‘The Loom of Visual Literacy: An Overview’, Audiovisual Instruction, 74:8 (1969), 25-27.

Donaghy, Kieran, Film in Action (Surrey: Delta Publishing, 2015).

English Language Syllabus 2010 (Primary & Secondary). Ministry of Education Curriculum Planning and Development Division (2008).

Goldstein, Ben, Working with Images (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

Goldstein, Ben and Paul Driver, Language Learning with Digital Video (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

Grundy, Peter, Hania Bociek and Kevin Parker, English through Art (London: Heibling Languages, 2011).

Hill, David A., ‘The Visual Elements in EFL Coursebooks’, in Developing Materials for Language Teaching, 2nd Edition, ed. by Brian Tomlinson (London: Bloomsbury, 2013), pp. 158-66.

Keddie, Jamie, Images (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

Kress, Gunther, ‘Multimodality: Challenges to Thinking About Language’, TESOL Quarterly, 34:2 (2000), 337-40.

Royce, Terry, ‘Multimodality in the TESOL Classroom: Exploring Visual-Verbal Synergy’, TESOL Quarterly, 36:2 (Summer 2002), 191-205.

Sinatra, Richard, Visual Literacy Connections to Thinking, Reading and Writing (Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, 1986).

Wright, Andrew, Pictures for Language Learning (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).


[1] The coursebooks analysed by Hill are:

Inside Out by S.Kay and V.Jones, Macmillan Heinemann, 2000.

face2face by C. Redstone and G. Cunningham, Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Outcomes by H. Dellar and A. Walkely, Heinle, Cengage Learning, 2010.

Hill chooses to ignore instructions about using the image given in the teacher’s book.


Dr. Sylvia Karastathi is a teacher educator and lecturer in TESOL at the Department of English Language and Language Teaching at New York College, Athens, Greece.  She holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge, where she wrote a thesis on contemporary literature and visual culture, and an MA in Modern Literature and Culture (University of York). She has published in the field of word and image studies in The Museal Turn (2012) and The Handbook of Intermediality (2015) and her current research focuses on visual culture and visual literacy in language education.