Seeing beyond the frame

Teaching History article

By Barbara Ormond, published 27th June 2018

Practical strategies for connecting visual clues and contextual knowledge

History teachers frequently show pupils visual images and often expect pupils to interrogate such images as evidence. But confusions arise and opportunities are missed when pupils do this without guidance on how to ‘read’ the image systematically and how to place it in context. Barbara Ormond gives a detailed account of how to make the most of such opportunities in her detailed explanation of the unique window into early modern English piety provided by woodcuts. These woodcuts are much more than they seem. Ormond shows how the multiple and varied uses to which woodcuts were put within ballads requires their multi-layered reading. Armed with contextual knowledge, pupils will become fascinated by skeletons, oak trees and devils, using the interplay of ballad text and image to probe early modern mindsets far beyond textbook generalisations.

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