Tackling Words & Images Critically and Closely with Students

As technology and schooling are continuously evolving, teachers must equip students with literacy skills needed to participate, engage, and succeed in our global and digital society. To do so, students must read, decode, and  think critically, moving between printed texts and digital interactions for communication and producing information.

Non-oral human communication has come a long way from cave drawings and cuneiform inscriptions. Communication in both the visual and written media continues to co-evolve. Writing has continued to permeate more than books, and students now find themselves reading more and more diverse texts and in more and more places – paper texts, online texts, informational text, literature, images and video on media platforms, game platforms, and social media. Whether the writing is in print or on screens, students are required to transfer reading skills to these different visual mediums for comprehension, communication, and creation.

Transliteracy, coined by Sue Thomas, Professor of New Media at De Montfort University and the Transliteracy Research Group,strives to set aside the typical ‘print versus digital’ dichotomy in favor of a more holistic integration of the ways in which we utilize various mediums to access information and make meaning. From pen and paper to moveable type to social networking, technology has changed the way in which we interact with one another and with information.” (Trimm, 2007) As a result, teachers are not just content area specialists but also literacy advocates, coaching students to be successful readers, writers, and critical thinkers.

Teachers must continue to equip students with literacy skills needed to participate, engage, and succeed in our global and digital society. To do so, students must develop skills to read in print and online, decode these messages, and critically think about text and media. As Turner and Hicks point out in Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World (NCTE, 2015), “The process of ‘reading’ is complicated by many factors including experience, skills, motivation, interest the reader brings to the text, and the difficulty and reading level of the text itself.” Educators today  are being called to teach reading that encompasses critical thinking skills.

Teacher and author, Kristin Ziemke has a great article in the January/February International Literacy Association magazine Literacy Today (2016 v.33, n.4) on “Balancing Text and Tech.” The central idea of her article is that teachers are not teaching a text, rather we should teach the reader and focus on (critical) thinking skills. Teachers need to explicitly teach students how to read both print and digital texts, as they require some different skills navigating and coding the text. Ziemke calls on teachers to model and scaffold to support our students so that they can “interact, respond, and think to read the world differently.”

Pairing text and tech is one strategy that I use in my classroom to help students practice their critical reading and thinking skills. Below I share some of the text and tech sets I have used this year.


Students read excerpts from

Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Young Reader’s Edition (2015) by Michael Pollan

Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food (2007) by Charles Wilson and Eric Schlosser

What’s Wrong with Our Food System TEDx Talk by Birke Baehr


Plastic Bag (sottotitoli in italiano – voce di Werner Herzog)


22 Facts About Plastic Pollution (And 10 Things We Can Do About It) from Eco Watch (2014)



War Poetry from Africa

A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah (2008)


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One thought on “Tackling Words & Images Critically and Closely with Students

  1. bjneary says:

    A wonderful post to share with my teacher friends, Thanks!

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