Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Working with Images 1

Working with Images

Naturally enough we learn mostly through physically experiencing something.  A good site to visit about learning through the five senses is http://www.literacyconnections.com/5Senses.html .  There is a plethora of other good sites on the net, just run a Google search and you will be amazed at the variety.  Abstract reasoning and thinking are very much secondary realities and derive from reflection on such experiences.  We have all heard our literature teachers rave about the vivid imagery in a piece of writing and we all remember those examinations asking us to describe the imagery in a poem.  Hence imagery describes all those realities experienced by the five senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste – the most obviously important of the five being the sense of sight.  Consequently when I’m teaching poetry at school I always ask the pupils questions such as:  “What do you see in this poem?”  “Do you hear anything in this poem?”  Smell, touch and taste are obviously extremely hard to describe in words or in images, but I suppose they can be suggested in a much lesser way.

The main question is definitely “What do you see?”  Any educationist or educationalist (you may prefer the longer word with that one extra syllable) will tell you that we learn more than 80% of our knowledge through the sense of sight.  Working with images always brings great fun and insight to a lesson.  Children, and indeed adults, are very open to working with images.  Pushing images to the limit, experimenting with them, inverting them, making them stand on their head – to use an image about images, if you pardon the expression.

Experimenting with prepositions and images can be very funny indeed, e.g., “I woke up this morning…”  “Could you not wake down?”  “There is nothing new under the sun” might become “There is nothing new over the sun” etc.  “He was under the moon with joy.  Such images are obviously ludicrous, but they illustrate how images work.  Playing with sounds is also a wonderful activity.  Does not that essential experience of “katharsis” which we find in all good tragedy (the word needless to say has its origin in the Greek language and means “a purging of the senses”, actually its etymology refers to the purging a laxative would have on constipated bowels.) sound like the very funny phrase and image “cats’ arses” in English.  Use this image in class and the pupils will never forget this word and its meaning.  Language is fun.  Images are fun.  Literature, which is written language, is consequently fun.

I’ll say a little more on images over the next few posts hopefully! The photo I have included above is one I took of the sunset at Howth Harbour some years back!

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