Critical Visual Analysis of Online and Print Media

See, Think, Wonder is a critical visual analysis approach where students evaluate images by asking questions before drawing conclusions as to meaning and accuracy. The following activities expand the See, Think, Wonder approach by offering opportunities to evaluate different types of visuals for their trustworthiness as information sources.

Seeing is believing, except when what you see is not actually true. Many people tend to accept without question the images they see in advertising, websites, films, television, and other media. Such an uncritical stance toward visual content can leave one open to distortion, misinformation, and uninformed decision-making based on fake and false information.

Take a moment to watch the Dove evolution YouTube video below to see how the media can present a distorted representation of reality. 

Watch on YouTube

Learning how to conduct a critical visual analysis is critical for living in a media-filled society. By engaging in critical visual analysis of the media, you can make more informed decisions regarding your civic, political, and private life

Watch on YouTube

As a first step in evaluating visual sources, the history education organization, Facing History and Ourselves, suggests the critical viewing approach of See, Think, Wonder. The goal is to evaluate images by asking questions about them before drawing conclusions as to meaning and accuracy.

Activity 1: Critical Visual Analysis of an Online Article

The visual content of an online article or website can tell us a lot about its trustworthiness. This activity asks you to perform a critical visual analysis of two news articles to evaluate the credibility of each source. 

Designing for Learning: Student-Created Activity Example

Critical Visual Analysis of an Online Article by Chloe Venuk

Activity 2: Critical Visual Analysis of a Primary Source

To analyze visual or written sources, the Library of Congress recommends students and teachers follow a three stage process: 1) Observe (describe what you see in the image), 2) Reflect (discuss what you think it means) and 3) Question (record what you want to now know more about). 

Activity 3: Critical Visual Analysis of an Advertisement

Activity 4: Critical Visual Analysis of a Doctored Historical Image

Additional Resources: 

Connecting to the Standards

  • Massachusetts Civics & Government Standards
    • Explain methods for evaluating information and opinion in print and online media. (Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for History and Social Studies) [8.T7.5]
  • ISTE Standards
    • Knowledge Constructor
      • 3b: Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data, or other resources.
      • 3d: Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
    • Creative Communicator
      • 6a: Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication. 
      • 6b: Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
      • 6d: Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for the intended audiences.
  • DLCS Standards
    • Interpersonal and Societal Impact (CAS.c)
    • Digital Tools (DTC.a)
    • Collaboration and Communication (DTC.b)
    • Research (DTC.c)
  • English Language Arts > History/Social Studies Common Core Standards
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.1
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.7
    • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.8

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