The World History Survey: Visual Literacy and Associative Thought

By Lael Sorensen
California State University, Los Angeles 



Project Summary

Reflective Essay

Lesson Suggestions and Materials
You can choose any single lesson option below or treat each one as a scaffolded series of lessons. I've provided a "how to" essay for each lesson followed by a bulleted list of suggested handouts and materials.

Option 1: Teaching Visual Literacy (Essay)

Option 2: Comparing Visual with Textual Primary Sources (Essay)

Option 3: Teaching Associative Thought (Essay)


In addition to the world history survey, Lael Sorensen teaches medieval and early modern European history at California State University, Los Angeles. This project explores the power of visual and textual primary sources while introducing students to the Web. Her goal was to combine teaching the content of world history with critical thinking skills. Finally, information literacy is a key feature of this site.

She would like to thank Linda Pomerantz and everyone in the California Cluster for their support and feedback during this project. Noralee Frankel was instrumental to its completion. Katherine C. Adams helped with key design issues for this Web site.

Project Summary

The guts of the Web site is a vertical portal composed of many visual primary sources each with explanatory text and all appropriate to the teaching of the medieval section of World History. These visual primary sources are arranged by civilization but can be combined to form new topic-specific groupings based on theme. That is the guts. The glory of this site consists of three separate lessons, each of which makes use of the visual primary sources in the vertical portal in different ways. Of course, teachers and students may access the vertical portal and do with it what they like on their own or they may want to follow my lesson suggestions. Each of the three suggested lessons acts as an independent unit or they may be treated as a scaffolded sequence of lessons - that is, each lesson introduces a new skill while rehearsing the skills taught in earlier lessons. All of the lessons seek to teach visual literacy and to encourage associative thought, key features of critical inquiry for beginning history students.