Can A Picture Tell A Thousand Words?

Images are part of the way we communicate and, through the Language and Literature course, it would be impossible to talk about how language operates in the world without considering the operations and impact of images. Many of the texts we encounter include images and some texts, such as road signs or paintings in an art gallery, might be made of images alone. Images are an integral part of most advertisement texts. This section will give you the opportunity to understand images better by learning how to analyze various components of visual images such as layout, use of lines, shapes and forms, light and colour and so on:

Class Activity: pick up the pieces

Read this analysis of a PSA from Australia. PSAs are a special kind of advertisement text that inform people about an issue of public concern. The aim of a PSA is to persuade people to change their behaviour rather than buy a product or service.

Find a visual text such as an advert, film poster, magazine cover or even painting. Present the text in the middle of a document and annotate this text using some of the techniques from the Visual Techniques Toolkit (above). Try to comment on the effect of these techniques as well. Present your findings to your classmates.

Learner Portfolio


Area of Exploration Guiding Conceptual Question

The cultural and historical factors that affect the content and style of a text is called its context of production. A text’s context of production is fixed – it is written by a particular person, in a particular place, over a particular time period. As you might expect, this has an influence on not only what is in the text, but how it is written about or presented.

Use the following resource containing adverts from different time periods – you will immediately recognise which are more modern than the other. Working through this resource will help you focus on the guiding conceptual question:

Paper 1 Text Type Focus: adverts with visual appeal

At the end of your course you will be asked to analyze unseen texts (1 at Standard Level and 2 at Higher Level) in an examination. You will be given a guiding question that will focus your attention on formal or stylistic elements of the text(s), and help you decode the text(s)’ purpose(s). Below is a Volkswagen advertising campaign that makes prominent use of visual images as well as catchy and pithy slogans. As the images all come from the same campaign there are clear similarities between the messages they give and the visual techniques used to convey messages and create effects. Other resources in this section have been chosen because of their strong visual appeal. Use these practice texts to familiarise yourself with the different features of Advertising and add them to your Learner Portfolio; you will want to revise text types thoroughly before your Paper 1 exam. You can find more information – including text type features and sample Paper 1 analysis – by visiting 20/20. Read through one or two of the exemplars, then choose a new paper and have a go at writing your own Paper 1 analysis response:

key features of advertising
  • Problem and benefit: also called ‘benefit and need’, the success of any advert depends upon appealing to the desires of its readers. These needs may be genuine – more often the advert will construct a need for you.
  • Image: a major component of modern advertising, images often tell visual narratives, or employ tactics such as ‘shock value’ or ‘sex sells.’
  • Slogan and copy: as the image is so important in ads, text is kept to a minimum. Slogans should be short, catchy, memorable and should have a relationship with the image; this is called anchoring. Look for typographical features such as bold fonts, underlined words and the like.
  • Association: adds sell products but also values and you should be alert to the abstract concepts that the advert is associating with its product and brand.
  • Testimonial: adverts often include the satisfied quotations of customers who already used the product and are delighted with their purchase. Some ads feature celebrity testimonials.
  • Persuasion: adverts are always persuasive. Even ads that are not trying to sell you a product or service might be asking you to think something, change your behaviour or help someone. Look out for any and all kinds of persuasive devices in advertising.

Body of Work:


Towards Assessment: Individual Oral

“Supported by an extract from one non-literary text and one from a literary work, students will offer a prepared response of 10 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of questions by the teacher, to the following prompt: Examine the ways in which the global issue of your choice is presented through the content and form of two of the texts that you have studied. (40 marks)

IB Language and Literature Guide

Please find suggestions here; but always be mindful of your own ideas and class discussions and follow the direction of your own programme of study when devising your assessment tasks.



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