Picture this…

When teaching students literature I often use the cliche: “a picture paints a thousand words”,  then turn it to a task by saying “as this is not an art lesson sometimes we need a thousand words to paint a picture”.  That is how I started a lesson this week teaching Skellig to a class of Y7s.  It was not a terribly inventive lesson, but the second of two lessons on one day so I wanted a creative element.  We took a range of quotations from chapters of the book which described the garage (if you have read Skellig this will make perfect sense, if not suffice to say the garage is in disrepair) the homework was to use those quotations, as a director might when making a film sequence, to design the set.  This could be done conventionally (using paper and pencils) or, as any true Coetail student would offer, using an iPad/computer programme to create the image if preferred.  It wasn’t long before one student had come back to me with the next stage: “can I make it on Minecraft then take a screen shot?”  The answer was, “of course, that would be great!”.

So I thought this week’s ideas about pictures should be linked to that class, and it was quite easy to think of the image(s) that I wanted to work with.

Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses. 

The image I want to consider / challenge is that of an angel – the character is Skellig.  The lesson will come later in the novel when the students are given to ask questions about who or what Skellig is.  Initially it is assumed he is a down and out, living in the garage as a sanctuary, but as the narrative continues we are led to clues that suggest he may have wings and eats insects and small animals.

I’m something like you, something like a beast, something like a bird, something like an angel

3616617104_4180478880_oBy using a traditional image of an angel together with other images of angels that are suggested from the text we will be able to explore the spiritual and literal concepts of an angel such as:

The doctors and nurses who together save the life of Michael’s baby sister

Photo Credit: atomicshark via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: atomicshark via Compfight cc

The character of MIna who opens Michael’s mind to creativity and thought:



Or the character of Skellig which is most unlike any typical image of an Angel:

Photo Credit: Neil. Moralee via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Neil. Moralee via Compfight cc

with these four visuals I hope that a discussion about the nature of angels can be inspired.

I will start the lesson with asking students to title the images, then discuss the captions that they have given to each.  The lesson will aim to open up a discussion on the concept of angels (music form Robbie Williams to support).

P.S. Whilst on the subject of visual literacy, I just love this blog post that a friend shared via Facebook (although the title Visual hyper-distillation of iconic storytelling is a bit pretentious).  I intend to use the concept at some point but for a wider reading project later in the year.  Simplification is a great idea; this would go with my reductionist activity – reduce the story to 9 words, 3 words, 1 word.



3 comments to “Picture this…”
3 comments to “Picture this…”
  1. I must say, I really like the new look of your blog – very original! I can’t remember anyone elses looking like this.

    Anyway, I read your post and loved the way your turned the cliche around – time to write 1000 words then! But no, you can choose how you want to present your ideas…nice.

    That boy who wanted to use Minecraft probably thought you were the best teacher ever!

    As a student, I would have liked to be in that lesson, Robbie Williams, visual stimulus, group discussion and choosing how to present my homework.

    Lovin it Wilcox!

  2. Intrigued with the statement (rule 10) that vision trumps all other senses, I am intrigued, what happens when you tell a story totally irrelevant to the visions you present? Thanks for the lead to the blog “Visual hyper-distillation of iconic storytelling”, which lead me to discover Röyksopp, and Slagsmålsklubben, from Tomas Nilsson. Totally fascinating videos, perhaps not Zen, but minimalist.

  3. Hi Jo!

    Nice image choices. Did you know Skellig has been made into a film? I’ve never seen it but after reading your post about the book I’d like to watch it with my kids.

    We miss you!


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