MIT Visualizing Cultures
Asia Rising and Yellow Promise/Yellow Peril Curriculum
by Kathy Krauth: Table of Contents

Visual Literacy: A Must for the 21st Century

Lesson 01
Learning to Look: How to Read Visual Texts
Part 01A: How to Read a Postcard

In this lesson, students are introduced to the concept of visual literacy through postcards of the 1904 to 1905 Russo-Japanese War. Students will be presented with a strategy to approach and interpret all visual texts. Students will then be asked not only to interpret postcards but to produce their own.

Part 01B: How to Read a Photograph
In this lesson, students are introduced to the concept of visual literacy through photographs of the Russo-Japanese War. Students will be presented with a strategy to approach all visual texts, but will utilize this strategy specifically with photographs. Concentrating on the conscious constructed nature of photographs, students will examine a variety of photographs and then use their knowledge to manipulate photos of the Russo-Japanese War.

Lesson 02
Doing the Historian’s Work

Inquiry, organization, and analysis are at the heart of the historian’s job. This lesson allows students to become historians of the Russo-Japanese War and further develop their analysis and synthesis skills. Students will analyze and organize the raw data of postcards and photos from this war, and then draw conclusions from their categorization.

Lesson 03
The Power and Patterns of the Postcard

Communication in the modern world has taken many forms. This lesson captures the time when technological advances and newly accepted standards for postcards created a global market for their mass production and consumption. The conjuncture of this global interest with the breakout of the Russo-Japanese War meant that people all over the world were viewing the same war in the same way. But what were they viewing? And what narrative or story was being created from this mode of communication? In this activity students will consider postcards as an important mode of communication during the Russo-Japanese war while engaging in a site quest—an activity with the exact same format and procedure as a Web quest, but limited to one source—in this case Asia Rising: Japanese Postcards of the Russo-Japanese War.

Lesson 04
Visual Documents-Based Question
Perceptions of a Turning Point

This lesson is based on the widespread use of Document-Based Questions (DBQ) as a tool for students to enhance their synthesis, analysis, organizational, and essay writing skills. Many Document-Based Questions use visual documents, but none use only visuals. This Visual-Based Question (VBQ) asks students to complete the same steps as a standard DBQ, but uses only visual documents in order to advance students’ visual literacy skills. This VBQ is virtually identical to the format of a written text-based DBQ. However, the actual steps of synthesis and organization required in a Document-Based Question answer have been explicitly included in this VBQ so that students of all levels and abilities can more easily perform the tasks and understand the underlying skills required for those tasks. Even those who have completed AP History Courses will benefit from considering and refining their own thinking processes involved in analyzing, organizing, and synthesizing information.

Lesson 05
A Visual Essay

Visual literacy means students are not only able to interpret visual texts, but to produce them as well. In this lesson students will first evaluate a visual argument based on the content of the Russo-Japanese War postcards. Students will then design their own visual argument. This exercise asks students to use the same skills and tools they would use to produce a written essay, but in producing a persuasive visual text instead.

Click here for the students’ edition

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