What are VISUAL CUES? quick 101 guide

Visual cues are the signals, reminders or prompts. They are used to highlight or point out the most important information we go through in our daily lives. Visual tricks can be in the form of concrete objects, flashcards, sticky notes, arrows, pointing lines or symbols, written words, arrows, or different images. These cues provide you with the necessary information to pay attention to. Learning can be difficult for most of the visual learners because they create images in their minds and are unable to process them. If we go through a very lengthy text and feel difficult to memorize it, we use different visual cues. We highlight some of the important points using vibrant colored markers or pointers.

            There are different visual cues that we can use. They are very engaging and eye-catching. Our senses are loaded with a lot of information. It is very difficult to process all the information we have in our minds. One of the important things that we can do is to take account into depth. And depth allows us to get an idea of how far away something is or how close something is. For this purpose, we use different visual tricks. Visual cues work as they are the prominent features that viewers can pick quickly.

Visual cues

Types of Visual Cues

  1. Behavior cues: These are the visual cues that show a learner what type of behaviors are to expect for different situations.
  2. Choice of boards: This is another kind of visual cue used to describe various choices that a learner can pick or consider.
  3. Communication cues: Such visuals help a learner to communicate.
  4. Environmental cues: Environmental cues help a learner understand what is expected from him in a specific place or environment.
  5. Labeling cues: These visuals help a learner to understand where to find and where to keep the items.
  6. Visual directions: They show different steps to complete any type of activity or a task.

Steps for using visual cues:

Following steps should be kept in mind while using a certain type of visual cue. If you are teaching someone the use of a visual cue, you must go through the steps:

  1. Choose the behavior. Think about the things you want someone to do and you don’t want to do. Demonstrate the behavior and make a decision that when this behavior you would like to be performed.
  2. Examples: You want someone or a learner to complete chores. So, you will have to decide either to do laundry, make a bed or wash dishes. Then decide the time of this behavior you want to get it done like 1 time a day or 2 times a day. If you want a learner to play games with your friends or parents, you should ask him or her to get it done during family game night.
  3. Then select a visual cue or cues, like, symbols, pictures, objects, words that you can use. It will help you to learn a certain skill. Think about a visual cue that the learner can use independently. During the preparation of the visual cues, you should consider all the information that is needed to be presented visually.
  4. Now organize all the materials needed and teach the learner how to use visual support. Stand behind the learner and make sure that he or she is focused on the provided visual information. Try to use relevant terms while teaching the cue.
  5. Fade the prompts so that the learner should learn not to rely on prompts but use the visual information independently.
  6. Consistently use visual support.
  7. Then collect the data on usage of visual support and targeting behavior. Collect all the information including the time taken to complete the task and the amount of work that has been done.
  8. Now it’s time to determine the next step which will be based on the progress of a learner. Figure out that the targeted skill is well-defined or not, measurable or observable. Ask yourself a question that has you and the learner devoted enough time to make the strategy successful?

Visual cues in reading:

When you are reading a book, article, journal, or newspaper, you must look at the pictures or imaged to understand the written text in a better way. Pause after reading a few sentences or paragraphs and must share the image that you have created in your mind while reading. Talk about the words which have helped you to understand the text. Talk about what is happening in the story and what you suggest to the writer. Now continue the reading from where you paused and share the new picture you have created in your mind while reading the text. Is the new image identical to the previous one? If no, then this is the best time to talk about it with someone that how these pictures are different from each other. Then start reading the other portion as well as continue the process of sharing. You will feel confident about what you have learned. If you are reading a fictional text, you must visualize the settings and actions of the characters. In this way, you will have a much better understanding of a text. Visualize the details of the topics and events in the history of the text you are reading is non-fictional.

Practicing the visual cues: You will need to create simple visuals while reading to help yourself remember the use of the whole strategy.

Visual cues in the classroom:

Teachers should know how to grab the attention of students. Not every teacher can get the concentration of students towards them or their lectures during class. The power of visual cues in the classroom lies in how teachers implement them. Identify different types of visual cues like auditory cues or visual cues. Auditory cues include calls or responses. Visual cues include raising a hand to get the attention of a student. In a classroom, different situations of learning require different types of visual cues. A teacher should be clear about the purpose of the usage of visual cues. Grabbing the attention of students is necessary so that a teacher can deliver information and provide instructions. Decide what type of visual cue should be used, knowing its purpose. Set the expectations regarding the response of students and explain the action you are expecting them to take. A teacher should keep on practicing the cue to get an effective result.

Individual schedules are the most common type of visual cue that must be used in almost every classroom. They are used to inform students about the activities of each day. Group schedules are also a type of visual cues which show a student what the rest of the students in the class are doing.

Visual cues are also for behavioral support. They tell students about expected behavior and also support communication. Such visual cues are for telling the students what is off-limits. They are used to break big tasks into smaller and easier ones.

Visual cues in the design

Visual cues for designs or graphics are used to point visitors in a particular direction with the help of arrows or pointing fingers. Visual cues help the visitors to navigate the page. Such visual cues are of two types.

  1. Explicit visual cues
  2. Implicit visual cues.

Explicit cues are direct and can be pointed on the page easily. There are different ways by which these visual cues are used on landing pages, such as;

  1. Arrows
  2. Lines
  3. Human line of sight
  4. Pointing fingers.

The second type is implicit visual cues that are subtle and go unnoticed sometimes. White space, encapsulation, bold letters, and color contrast are the ways to put visual cues.

Visual cues in learning

Visual cues are to enhance learning. Children receive a lot of information via visual cues from birth to age 5. Many readers and children rely on visual cues while reading to understand different aspects of written text. Such visuals allow them to store a lot of information in their brain for a longer period. Images and videos are used as cues are processed by our long-term memory that enhances retention by 30 to 42 percent. The cues reduce the load on our working memory. Learners can show expected responses faster than text material. Hence, it helps to improve learning on multiple levels.

Visual cues psychology

Such visual cues are also known as depth cues. Using both psychological & physiological cues, a virtual system of humans can interpret depth in sensed images. It uses all the depth cues to determine distances between objects. Psychological cues include

  • Retinal image size
  • Texture gradient
  • Overlapping
  • Aerial perspective
  • Shades & shadow

Visual cues in communication

Effective communication is very challenging. While communicating, a person must keep attention to deliver the information. Visual cues help the speaker to use non-verbal and verbal communication skills in the most effective way to solidify the necessary information.

  • Creating anchor charts
  • Reviewing all the visual cues
  • Pairing verbal and visual cues
  • Selecting visual cues
  • Non-verbal responses of students
  • Tangible visual cues

Here are some examples of visual cues that are used during communication.

  • Hand signals
  • Regulation of volume

Purpose of using visual cues:

  • To orient, highlight and point out the necessary information.
  • To break down the big tasks into small steps.
  • They are used to decrease anxiety and to increase independence.
  • It controls where viewers look.
  • They help improve efficiency, learning, and processing.
  • They reduce the extraneous load on working memory.


Visual cues are used during non-verbal communication to convey messages to people through the movement of the body, hands, facial expressions, posture & eye contact. The teacher should teach the students each visual cue and the purpose of using those cues. Sometimes, people think that visual cues are only for children who have difficulty understanding different things they experience in life. But this is not true. Visual cues can be used by anyone in various fields. Visual cues can help us to improve our social skills and social behavior. It helps to improve our communication skills. We create an image of what we are reading to understand easily. It also helps to reduce our frustration when we are unable to understand what we read. It also helps to decrease communication gaps between a teacher and a student. Many children feel very anxious when they notice even a very little change in their daily routine. They get scared of unfamiliar conditions. Visuals can help them get out of this situation by creating a schedule. This schedule helps to know what is going to happen within the day. The type of visual cue to be used should depend on their ability. Visual cues have many advantages as they enhance our learning skills and make our way of communication better.

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