Four Visual Learning Strategies to Enhance Student Outcomes


Exploring Visual Learning Strategies

Our students are visual learners. Our society, as a whole, is becoming more and more reliant on the information we can see—such as infographics, virtual marketing and augmented reality. To best reach our students, we must be prepared to make information more visual if the complexity of text is impeding a student’s learning process. Using visuals to organize and make sense of written information is a strategy we  hope becomes inherent to each learner. Let’s look at four types.

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Visual Learning Strategies: Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are tools  teachers can use to help their students organize learning in a way that helps them see connections among content, concepts, ideas and facts. Further, the spatial arrangement of a graphic organizer allows the student and the teacher to identify missing information or absent connections in one’s strategic thinking (Ellis, 2004). Graphic organizers are reliable tools educators have used for years to make overwhelming information more visual and understandable for students. Each organizer has its own specific purpose and should be chosen strategically to accomplish the learning goal. You can make your own graphic organizer for any areas in which your students are having trouble thinking at a rigorous level.

Visual Learning Strategies: Foldables

It is effective to give struggling students  a notes guide or information sheet to provide extra support as they process any new learning. Graphic organizers offer this type of support. A foldable is a graphic organizer that is three-dimensional and can be more interactive. Foldables, which can be created traditionally or electronically, have several benefits.


Visual Learning Strategies and the benefits of foldables


Types and Uses

Foldables are versatile and can be used interchangeably across content areas. However, it is helpful to have a guide as to which types of foldables are best used for the concept you want to help your students with. Dinah Zike provides examples of types of foldables, which give you a starting point. There are many others, and remember, you should customize them to best meet your students’ needs. We have given you a starter list of types and ways you can use them, but you will probably want to Google each type so you’ll know exactly what it looks like.


Visual Learning Strategies and the benefits of foldables


Visual Coding

Using color to deconstruct or draw attention to parts of a text can help struggling learners process information more effectively. This can be done by the teacher or by the student as you gradually release independence. Perhaps when using an argumentative text to highlight the benefits and drawbacks of microchipping humans, students can underline pros in green and cons in red. This could also work if you are teaching paragraph structure for a document-based question in your social studies class. If a teacher is consistent throughout the year with the same visual coding practices, students will recognize patterns more readily. For example, when showing examples of an expository paragraph for short-answer questions in a middle school English language arts or social studies classroom, always highlight the topic sentence, circle transition words/phrases, number the evidence/reasons and underline the concluding sentence. As students write their own paragraphs, have a classmate use the same text markings to identify required structural elements for one another’s writing. Finally, have students identify the elements in their own writing.

Other Visual Learning Strategies

Aside from graphic organizers, there are other ways to make reading and writing more visual for our students. Anytime you sense that more support is needed to help them access the text or concepts you are teaching, consider making the information visual before leading them back to the text and ultimate goal.


Visual Learning Strategies and the benefits of making writing more visual


A Final Note on Visual Learning Strategies

Using visual structures can help all students, especially those who struggle. By customizing your visual tools, you can help your students be more successful.

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