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How to make the most out of your 5km in Level 5, and teaching children the art of ‘slow looking’


Stock picture

Stock picture

Stock picture

ABOUT 90pc of what we take in from the world, we take in visually.  Visual literacy refers to our ability to comprehend, make meaning of, and communicate through visual means. 

From the Caves of Lascaux to the Book of Kells, from Ogham to emojis, understanding the visual has always held importance. As parents, we know the importance of textual literacy and now more than ever, computer literacy. Have we ever really considered the importance of visual literacy? What better time to stop and see the world around us than during this pandemic.

On October 21, a limit on movement of 5km from peoples' homes was put on certain activities in the latest round of Covid-19 measures announced by the Government. In the hustle and bustle of life, the beauty that surrounds us may have been camouflaged by the rush of life. Perhaps we noticed the beauty but busy schedules did not allow us to stop and really observe it. Using the opportunity for exercise within 5km will not only ensure our children keep active in these challenging times but it is a wonderful opportunity to introduce the concept “slow-looking” and teach our children the language of visual literacy.

Here, the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST), which brought us the Keeping the Learning Going at Home series when schools were closed earlier this year, kindly shares some ideas to help parents teach children the art of “slow-looking”, to not only look at the world but to really see the fine details of the visual world. The PDST is a Department of Education and Skills support service.

Ideas for “Slow – Looking”


Children love flowers that tickle the senses Stock picture

Children love flowers that tickle the senses Stock picture

Children love flowers that tickle the senses Stock picture

Very simply, the art of “slow-looking” involves firstly looking followed by the ability to see, describe, analyse and finally interpret.

The following are some ideas to get you started in learning to be visually literate:

● Explore all signage in your locality. What do all the signs mean? Ask your child to contemplate why certain symbols and colours are used? Is the symbol used in other contexts? Can your child make a connection and think of other times or places they may have observed this sign? Both rural and urban settings offer a variety of signs and symbols.

● Explore the road markings in your locality as you journey to school. Ask your child to speculate why certain markings would be necessary at various junctions. Consider the possibility that this conversation may be about the absence of road markings if the roads within your 5km radius are local roads.

● “Slow-look” at the expansive palette of colour that surrounds you on your daily walk or commute. Perhaps, ask your child to find various autumnal shades. Provide language to help describe the various shades: Is it crimson, golden, sage green for example? This is a wonderful opportunity to increase your child’s word bank and their ability to describe their world which will be of life-long benefit to them.

● “Slow-look” at nature retreating. Seize the opportunity to show your child the subtle changes from day to day, the dramatic changes from season to season. This will help build your child’s vocabulary and develop their imagination for creative writing.

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● Our Irish climate provides us with a great variety of weather which “colours” the scener each day. Seeing how the “colour” of the day influences our perception and mood is a wonderful way to teach children about the impact of colour in illustrations in their books or images appearing on their screens.

● Visual images have the power to bring our senses together and impact viscerally on our emotions. Challenge your child to find scenes depicting various moods. Using a simple homemade cardboard frame or a camera would be an excellent way to consider the contents of a scene. For older children, this can lead to conversations and critical thinking about the images used in newspapers, on news broadcasts, on social media.

● Bring maths to life and identify shapes, types of lines or patterns in our environment. “Slow-look” for symmetry in your environment, for hidden shapes within the bare branches of trees.

● A very simple way to bring all the language experiences together would be to play “I spy”encouraging your child to “slow-look” and to really see, describe, analyse and interpret the world around them.

This is just a tip of the visual literacy iceberg but when restrictions ease in December, we can take comfort that our time was time well spent where our children learnt far more than a textbook will teach them.