Visual Literacy

A WebQuest for 11th Grade (Literature)

Designed by

Jeff Cahalan

Introduction | Task | Process | Evaluation | Conclusion | Credits


This will be a final project for our semester. This semester we focused on “visual literacy”, we began with the text The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. The Giving Tree is presented as a children’s book that can be read in five minutes; yet the poignant story can be interpreted on many levels. The unique thing that The Giving Tree offers us is a book in which pictures and text are on equal ground, some books are dominated by text, while others are dominated by pictures (graphic novels). The next book we studied in our visual literacy series was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, this novel was dominated by text with illustrations from the main character, Arnold, added every few pages. Our third text book was Understanding Comics: the Invisible Art by Scott Mcloud. Scott McCloud describes the inner workings, and psychology of how comics function in the literary world. McCloud’s deep explanation of this art form helped provide us with greater appreciation for our last text in this series, Maus: A Survivor’s Tale and part II And Here My Troubles Begin by Art Spiegelman.

            This assignment has three parts; the main objective is to compose a persuasive letter to Scott McCloud inviting him to come speak to our class about visual literacy and the art of comics. Part two is to create a list of questions for Scott McCloud that we can use when he visits our class. Part three is to create a comic strip about visual literacy, understanding comics, or a persuasive idea that will be added to our letters to Scott McCloud. 


The Task

: The task is in three parts; part one create a persuasive letter encouraging Scott McCloud to come to our classroom to discuss comics, and visual literacy. Part two, create a list of questions you would want to ask Mr. McCloud. Part three, create a short comic strip about a topic related to visual literacy, persuading Mr. McCloud to visit, a question you would ask Mr. McCloud, or any other teacher approved subject. You will be working in groups of three.


The Process

You will begin by researching two web sites. The first web site will be about Art Spiegelman,( ) you are encouraged to expand your web search regarding the novel we covered Maus. You may want to read critical reviews to gain different perspectives and greater insight into this classic graphic novel. The second web site is for Scott McCloud,  again you may want to expand your web search on Mr. McCloud and his book Understanding comics: the Invisible Art. This research should help you focus your persuasive letter, and your questions to Mr. McCloud. You may want to use concept maps or flow charts to help formulate ideas about specific techniques mentioned in Understanding comics, or how specific techniques were used in Maus. In regards to generating questions for instance, I once mentioned to Mr. McCloud that I was in a Catholic church and realized that the Stations of the Cross actually fit his definition of comics, and why this representation was not mentioned in his book, he explained that it was mentioned and his example was religious scenes depicted in stained glass windows. In regards to Maus you may want to ask questions about the use of animal allegory, and why Spiegelman uses animal Icons. Does the use of animal ciphers change our personal perspective? Why do the characters in Maus sometimes use people masks? Why does Spiegelman refer to comics as “comix”? Also consider our discussion about the three different styles of drawings in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.



Literature class, 11th grade

Grading Rubric for Visual Literacy Project


well developed




Not Developed  



Persuasive letter to Scott McCloud

Well developed and very persuasive

Developed and persuasive

Developed but not persuasive

Not developed or persuasive


Questions about comics/visual literacy


Questions are thought provoking and on topic
Questions are developed and on topic
Questions are on topic
Questions are not very developed


Through this process of understanding the techniques used in the art of comics, and analyzing how these techniques are portrayed by experts like Art Spiegelman. You should have a greater understanding of what McCoud refers to as the “invisible art”. Having unmasked the invisible art, and actually created a small comic strip, do you think you could create a small graphic novel? Has your understanding of what comics can be been expanded? Has the use of visual literacy icreased your enjoyment of reading? Would you recommend a graphic novel to a friend or an adult?   


Credits & References

Silversein, Shel: The Giving Tree, 1964, Harper & Row, Publishers: New York, Evanston, London.


Alexie, Sherman: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, 2007


McCloud, Scott: Understanding Comics: the Invisible Art


Spiegelman, Art: Maus: A Survivor’s tale I My Father Bleeds History, II And Here My Trouble Begin. 1973, Pantheon Books, a division of Random House, Inc. New York.      

Last updated on May 9, 2010.