A Structured Image
Words are important for precision, but an image packs a punch. Maps are a particular type of image, a visual guide to finding your way around a new area. Maps of various kinds show how things lie in relation to each other. When looking closely at maps you often discover more features and more interesting details than you first knew were there.
The materials which I develop in poster form are similar to maps in that they present a visual overview or helicopter view of the terrain which the topic covers. The main theme of each map is clearly divided into sub-themes, and the relationships between different themes and sub-themes are shown. The visual overviews are a kind of enriched concept-map, attractively illustrated in keeping with the theme. They also contain many important and thought-provoking questions and learning activities which are designed to stimulate a deeper understanding of the theme. By placing the questions and activities at appropriate points on the concept-map structure, children (and teachers) can clearly see the relevance of each question and activity for understanding the sub-topic and the topic as a whole.
These thematic posters are useful for teachers as well as students, because they summarize and organize the main areas and the main questions and issues which are important for deeper understanding of a topic. The visual overview technique allows us to introduce children to complex subjects (wholes) in terms of their parts, and even to see those parts in terms of their smaller parts. The structure of topics and subtopics is made visually explicit, which makes it easier for children to grasp. In this way complex subjects can be meaningfully introduced, discussed and studied by younger children than would otherwise be possible. This is of particular benefit to gifted children who are often attracted by complex and difficult topics at a very young age and want to learn about these in school. Teachers often lack suitable materials or the background to handle these complex topics effectively in primary schools. With these visual overview projects it becomes possible for primary teachers to meet the special needs of gifted learners and to raise the levels of interest and understanding for a wide range of ability levels and talents.