Learning through pictures

Using art postcards for interdisciplinary learning

Whether you want to introduce a new topic, encourage literacy or personalise learning, art postcards can be used in many ways across the curriculum.

Collect your own set of art postcards for use in class. You might want a collection based on a particular topic e.g. Scottish artists / numeracy / the environment

Or you might want a random selection of pictures to let students lead their own learning, identify their own themes and ask questions in response to what they see.

Using art postcards

Whether you want to introduce a new topic, encourage literacy or personalise learning, art postcards can be used in many ways across the curriculum.

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Here are four activities to get you started:

  • Choosing
  • Grouping
  • Valuing
  • Literacy

Lay out all your postcards and let pupils lead the conversation.


Ask your students to choose which postcard…

  • would you send to your best friend / gran / headteacher?
  • would you hang in your bedroom?
  • best represents your school?
  • shows how you feel today?
  • do you have the most questions about?

Emphasise that there’s no right or wrong answer. We all respond instinctively to pictures and this activity is a simple way of demonstrating that we all see things differently. Students can disagree with each other while respecting each other’s opinions and recognising that everybody’s opinion is valid.


Ask your students to sort the postcards into categories of their own choice. How would they group them?

Or set your own categories and ask them to group them accordingly e.g.

  • Past / Present / Future
  • Amazing / Boring / Weird

This activity gives you an insight into how your students make sense of things; it can help students identify patterns, compare and contrast, encourage divergent thinking and challenge them to reconsider assumptions or stereotypes. It can also help you identify gaps in their knowledge on a given subject.


Ask your students to choose their top five pictures, first individually, then in pairs, then in groups. Can your class democratically agree the overall top five, as a whole class? Let them decide how to go about this. Ask them to justify their choices. Why do they value one picture more than another?

Can they agree

  • the top five works of art
  • the top five images to represent our school
  • the top five images to describe Scotland

This activity invites students to reflect, justify and articulate their own values.


 All of the suggested activities involve listening and talking but if you specifically aim to develop listening, talking or writing, here are some further ideas to motivate your students.

  • Ask students to sit in pairs back to back.  One student describes a postcard image that their partner cannot see. The partner has to draw the image.
  • Nominate a group scribe to write down key words they hear being used by fellow students while talking about the postcards. Use these words as a stimulus for further writing or drawing activities.
  • Ask your students to think of a title for each picture.
  • Before you show students the postcards, tell them the titles. Ask them to close their eyes and describe what they think the picture will look like, based on the title alone.

These activities also encourages students to develop their visual literacy skills by looking at images for longer than they usually would to notice and interpret the symbols, messages and ideas communicated by the artist.

Let us know how you use your postcards.