To help students become independent readers and comprehend the complex information they will encounter throughout their lifetime teaching comprehension strategies will help them flourish. The capacity to self-direct reading strategies is extremely important in our fast-paced, technology-rich world. Cognitive processes to access and understand information is done automatically in good readers and these are the exact strategies we must model and teach to our students.
The onset of the internet has triggered an explosion in visual information with an increase of 400% in literature and an astounding increase of 9900% on the internet but little is done in terms of supporting students’ gain skills to comprehend information in the area of visual comprehension strategies.
Aligning to best practices in literacy, I created the SCD Strategy to help students understand Infographics. To begin with, students need to understand the general purpose of infographics – Infographics make information visible, tell a story visually that is easy to understand, grab the reader’s attention, and spark conversation. Identify the issue or topic presented and the author’s purpose or claim.
SCD Strategy for understanding Infographics:
S– Structure – Infographics have a definite structure just as any other text they may read. The information presented is connected and not just a bunch of random thoughts put together. Have students determine how the information is organized.
- Is is Chronological? Cause and Effect, Inductive/deductive?
- Is the information organized by person, event, product?
- Does the author use data or % to organize information?
Identifying the structure of an infographic helps readers understand the flow of the information and is part of comprehending information.
C- Content – Infographics are constructed around content to help the reader understand complex ideas visually. Students should identify the story the visual content is telling the reader.
- What is the main claim and evidence the author is using to support it?
- Where does the information come from?
- Is it reliable and current information?
Only 53% of infographics contain data and numbers, have students key in on important words, phrases, and repetition. Most infographics chunk information into digestible, bite-sized segments. Identify the parts and how they relate to the whole.
D – Design – Infographics visually tell a story and relate information to consumers. Not only is content important in this form of communication but design elements help to convey meaning. Making students aware of design principles used in infographics is another strategy to support comprehension.
- How is Typography used? Italics and bold-faced words jump out to the reader and signal important information.
- How are Colors used in the infographic? What information is emphasized through the use of specific colors? Do the colors relate to the content or topic?
- Spacing, alignment, and whitespace is used intentionally to focus the reader’s visual cueing system, provide direction or flow, or connect like ideas.
- Finally, icons, numbers, images add to the overall understanding of the message, highlight important information, and help students visualize key points.
Digital communication will only increase the use and creation of visual information and while many students have never experienced a time pre-internet they are not equipped with the strategies that will help them flourish as readers. Modeling and teaching the SCD Strategy will equip students with the necessary skills to comprehend infographics and demystify visual information.