Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

OPTIC: A Reading Strategy Recipe

Visual Literacy

K20 Center, Lara Searcy | Published: May 17th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course
  • Time Frame Time Frame 2-3 class period(s)
  • Duration More 120 minutes


This lesson demonstrates how using reading strategies enhances understanding of text. Students are asked to “read” a variety of texts, including art, a video, and a short story, using the OPTIC strategy. Students will first make (O)bservations and (P)redictions about the text to aid in their understanding of (T)hemes and (I)nferences that will allow them to draw (C)onclusions about the text later on. Students will access prior knowledge and evidence to deepen their understanding of the text. Students will then identify themes, make inferences, and draw conclusions to aid in their comprehension and interpretations of the text.

Essential Question(s)

How can using reading strategies enhance one’s comprehension?



Students will engage in understanding how to “read” text.


Students will explore art as a non-print text and use reading strategies to enhance their comprehension.


Students will explain how reading strategies aid in comprehension.


Students will apply the OPTIC reading strategy to other texts to demonstrate how using a strategy enhances comprehension.


Students will evaluate their use of reading strategies and comprehension.


  • Non-print text/art, for example Norman Rockwell’s “The Shiner"

  • Copies of the "OPTIC Recipe Card" ("The Shiner" and/or blank, two per student)

  • Pen/pencil

  • Paper

  • Self-stick notes

  • Computer with a projector and Internet access

  • White board

  • Tape

  • Different colored pencils/highlighters/dry erase markers (if possible)

  • Copies of "The Bully"


A Think-Pair-Share activity will be used to access prior knowledge. Each student will first think for a minute of a definition for "visual literacy," then write it on a self-stick note. Students should also write a list of at least three reading strategies that they use to help them comprehend text. When students have finished thinking, pair them with elbow partners to share their answers. Students will keep their lists for later in the lesson.

The teacher should explain to students that they are going to "read" a piece of art. This is a task that requires visual literacy, which is a set of reading skills and strategies that help people "decode, interpret, create, question, challenge, and evaluate texts" (Carry, n.d.). According to Carry, visual literacy communicates with visual images as well as, or instead of, words. "Visually literate people can read the intended meaning in a visual text, interpret the purpose and intended meaning, and evaluate the form, structure, and features of the text" (Carry, n.d.).

Display a non-print text (art) that is interesting and provides a story, like Norman Rockwell’s “The Shiner,” for students to quietly observe. The teacher should either show the art on a computer projector or provide individual handouts.

The teacher should pass out the attached “OPTIC Recipe Card” to each student. At the top of the card, an initial summary of comprehension of the image should be written by each student.

The teacher should explain to students that using a process and having reading analysis tools will aid comprehension and expand visual and multimodal literacies. Reading text and “reading” art both strengthen skills that aid in all aspects of reading across different mediums and for different purposes. Also, by using non-print text, students can be introduced to the importance and effectiveness of using reading strategies in a different way.


The teacher should discuss how OPTIC is a reading strategy that will help students make Observations and Predictions, identify Titles/Themes, cite evidence for Inferences, and draw Conclusions. The teacher should go through each step of the OPTIC process on the board with students, using the attached "OPTIC Recipe Card The Shiner Key" for guidance, if needed.

O: The students will conduct a Picture Deconstruction, independently creating a list of ten key concrete observations that are most important in understanding the visual text. These observations are the details that students would underline or highlight if it were print text. In this case, these concrete observations should be visual details only.

Have each student share one detail, and make a list on the board. Details that appear on the board that students do not have will be added to their lists.

P: Ask students for predictions about what is happening in the text/art.

  1. Prediction: The man sitting behind the desk is a principal (color-coded green)

  2. Prediction: The girl is in a school/office (color-coded red)

  3. Prediction: There has been a fight, and the girl won (color-coded blue)

T: The students will brainstorm potential titles for the art and share out at least three. The teacher should discuss how or if the students' titles give important information about the main ideas or themes in the art. The teacher should share the real title and discuss how it brings focus to the main idea and main detail of the art. The teacher should discuss the artist and time period, information that is also important to reading. The students will identify which details in the picture give information about the artist, title, and time period.

I: Make Inferences from the predictions by assigning evidence from the observations list. The students will give evidence for their predictions using their observations. They will underline supporting evidence using the same color-coding as used in the prediction step of the lesson. The teacher should discuss any important prior knowledge students may have that aids comprehension.

  1. Inference: We know the man sitting behind the desk is the principal because it says “principal” on the door. He has on a tie and is behind the desk (color-coded green).

  2. Inference: We know the girl is in a school because of the environment. There is a bench, bulletin board, file cabinet, and the word “principal” on the door. We know the girl could be in a private school because she is wearing a plaid skirt and white shirt (color-coded red) that looks like a uniform.

  3. Inference: We know the girl was in a fight because her knuckles are red, her clothes and hair are disheveled, she has a Band-Aid on her knee, and she has a black eye. We know she probably won the fight because of the smirk on her face and the absence of the other student (color-coded blue).

C Students will draw Conclusions about the art by identifying who is pictured, what has happened, and when, where, why, and how it took place. The students will write the words "who," "what," "when," "where," "why," and "how" on their recipe cards. Students will then use the Pass the Problem strategy using the cards.

Each student will pass a recipe card to the right and record something next to "who" on the card received from the student to the left. Students will pass the cards to the right again, this time writing something next to the "what" on the card received. Next, students will pass the cards again to the right and write responses next to "when." Students will continue passing the cards until each individual's card has six different answers for each category. After returning cards to the original owners, students will use these answers as prompts to brainstorm for the narratives they will write.

  1. Who is the girl? name, age, grade

  2. What did she do? She got in a fight with [other student's name].

  3. When did the fight occur? during lunch/recess/break/before school/after school/season/time/day

  4. Where did the fight occur? in the lunchroom/hall/classroom/bathroom/playground

  5. Why did she get in fight? because . . . [reason]

  6. How is she going to be punished? What punishment is the principal going to give her? How long will it last?


Students will use their guided practice recipe cards to explain the story behind the painting.

After viewing the art again, each student will write a narrative paragraph of five to six sentences, one sentence for each of the question categories on the recipe cards. Students will describe the picture's context, the setting, characters, and plot/conflict, and support their positions with evidence from the text. This narrative will reflect their final comprehension. The teacher should read the example narrative shown below to the class, if needed. Students will use the answers from the recipe cards to help them describe the context. Students must include specific details and imagery, as well as evidence from the art, to support their inferences and conclusions.

After students have written the narratives, they will tape their stories on their backs, facing out. Students will stand up and "mingle" until the teacher turns the lights off. While the lights are dimmed, students are to form a circle of groups of three or four. The teacher should turn the lights back on when the groups are ready. Students will read the stories from the backs of the individuals next to them in the circle. Groups will then select a volunteer to read one of the stories from the group to the whole class.

As the selected student from each group reads a story to the class, other students will close their eyes and try to visualize the images presented in the narrative.

Students will look back to self-assess and answer how their initial comprehension, prior to using OPTIC, was different from their final comprehension (question three on the recipe card). The teacher should call on students to explain how using the reading strategies enhanced comprehension.

Have students do a Think-Pair-Share to discuss the differences between their initial comprehension and final comprehension, as reflected in their narrative essays.

The teacher should lead a class discussion on how, at the beginning of the lesson, first observations were probably vague. For example, one initial observation might have been that the girl in the illustration got into a fight, unsupported by evidence. However, after using OPTIC to identify main ideas, make predictions, identify themes, make inferences, and draw conclusions, students should have a more detailed, narrative description of the art. This shows that having a reading process helps enhance comprehension.


At the end of the lesson, the class will discuss how having a reading process to analyze art is similar to using a process to analyze text. OPTIC allowed students to do what a good reader needs to do to aid comprehension: note key details (Observations), make Predictions, consider main ideas and theme in a Title, cite evidence to create Inferences, and draw Conclusions about the context.

Pass out the attached "OPTIC Recipe Card," to each student. Students will now apply the OPTIC reading strategies to a video text through a Think-Pair-Share activity.

Students will extend their practice of visual literacy reading strategies using the YouTube video version of "The Bully" (hyperlink). It is important to note that this video contains minor language that some students may find offensive. The teacher should preview the video to decide if it is appropriate for the class. The video runs slightly over seven minutes.

As they watch the video students will note the important details on their recipe cards.

The teacher should stop the video at minute 2:08 and allow students to think and to write predictions about Tony Claxton, how the title provides information about a possible theme, and what evidence or prior knowledge they need in order to make inferences.

When students have completed their predictions, the teacher should continue the video while students complete their "OPTIC Recipe Card." Students will then share their responses with an elbow partner.

After viewing the video, pass out copies of the of the text version of "The Bully" (hyperlink). The teacher should read the story aloud with the class. See "The Bully Key" attachment for guidance, if needed. Have students apply OPTIC reading strategies by underlining key details (observations), making predictions, looking at the title/theme, citing evidence for inferences, and drawing conclusions.

While annotating, students will label all of the who, what, where, when, why and how elements that appear in the text, then write a descriptive summary that includes all of them.


The teacher should create a T-Chart on the board for the I Used To Think ... But Now I Know instructional strategy. Students will refer back to their self-stick notes from the beginning of the lesson. The teacher should choose a few students to read what they wrote on the self-stick notes and then have all students walk to the board and post their notes in the first column of the T-Chart. On new self-stick notes of a different color, students will write whether using the OPTIC reading strategies aided their comprehension and, if so, why and how. For the "But I Know" portion of the activity, students will write how the OPTIC process was the same, but also how it differed across the tasks of comprehending the illustration, the video, and the short story. Students will then put their self-stick notes in the second column of the T-Chart on the board. The teacher should read select entries to the class.

Student responses should affirm that using reading strategies does enhance comprehension. The teacher should remind students that the process they have used to improve their visual literacy is similar to the reading process they use with text. The students should be encouraged to use a set of reading skills and strategies to help them decode, interpret, create, question, challenge, and evaluate texts.


The OPTIC device is a great entry-level scaffold for other literary analysis devices such as SOAPSTone and TPCASTT (hyperlinks). The difficulty of the lesson or analysis can be increased at each grade level or changed to accommodate different students.

IEP - Students with exceptionalities can participate in the guided practice part of this lesson without having any prior content knowledge or skills. Adaptations of the independent practice could include using only the brainstorming section or the video renditions of the story. Students with visual impairments may need access to a hard-copy of the artwork used in the lesson.

ELL - ELL students can practice vocabulary using the artwork by identifying objects they know or by listing objects in their native languages.

GT - Students who are gifted and talented can turn their narrative responses into creative stories that use more elements of plot and characterization. They can also select or create their own non-print texts/artworks and write narratives to share with the class.

Reading Proficiencies - Students at various reading proficiencies will benefit from the scaffolding of the reading process and comprehension strategies.

Differentiation - This lesson can be modified for use with a large group, small group, or for independent implementation.

Supplementary/Enrichment Activities - Students can select other non-print texts and independently go through the OPTIC process for additional reading process/comprehension practice.