Digital Literacy: Teaching Infographics, a sub-genre

infographic components

During the past few months, I have had the pleasure of teaching a Digital Storytelling course. The focus was on how students can use digital modes to communicate their understanding of concepts, topics, and problems. Recently, the learning was on infographics. We live in a visual world, digital communication makes up most of the reading one does daily. Videos, images, and infographics are commonplace and examples of reading and writing digital literacies.

Digital modes of communication are best taught as sub-genres in the classroom. When considering Infographics and how best to teach students to consume and create them, the following are guidelines that will assist you in this endeavor.

First, start with an inquiry lesson in which students investigate a collection of infographics that are considered to be of high quality. I like the ones listed in the article entitled, 11 Best Infographics of 2015. students will find a variety of designs, structural examples, along with content areas. Students are charged with Identifying Commonalities, Naming Components of Good Infographics, and Providing Reasons to Justify Claims. (All which are aligned to the Common Core Writing Standards).

Second, identify a mentor “text” (in this case an infographic) in which students can use to refer back to when making decisions on their own infographic. Remember, a mentor text is one that has many access points students can use. It can be one that is teacher-created, or student-created, as well as one from an expert. It does not need to align to content, instead, the focus is on skills and components students use and show when designing an infographic.

Third, good writers/designers plan before they start creating an infographic. A storyboard or checklist containing components of an infographic will provide structure to budding designers. Check out Google Templates for examples, or better yet, have students create their own. The more complete their planning is, the more successful their creation of infographics will be.

Finally, provide a checklist containing the 7 Elements above with explanations, examples, or other activities that allow students to dig into the different areas while constructing their  own knowledge of this sub-genre.

  1. Topic: Student-Choice should be given when selecting a topic. Remember, we are working on skills and components of stellar infographics that they can use from this day forward, not the content! The topic should be relevant, engaging, as well one that is not currently an infographic that they can Google and copy.
  2. Audience & Purpose: Identifying audience and purpose of communication provide a lens in which to look through when sharing information. Just as in all types of communication, the skills students use to demonstrate their understanding through an infographic are transferable to multiple digital and text-based modes.
  3. Structure: Infographics have structure similar to what a reader may notice in non-fiction. Description, Compare and Contrast, Order, Sequence, Chronological, Cause and Effect are a few of the ways students can consider when structuring their information and flow.
  4. Hook: Good Infographics have a catchy title or image that “hook” the viewer at first glance. Students should identify this, not only in mentor examples but also as a skill that is transferable to all forms of communication. Taking time to practice this skill is essential!
  5. Balance: Infographics have a balance between text, images, icons, and white space. Succinct communication through words, phrases, and images demonstrate a command of the information and also design elements.
  6. Design: There are many different strands to infographics when dissecting design elements; start with the basics and build from there. Notice color schemes, fonts, and images. How do they promote or detract from the message? A site for those of us that are clueless when it comes to color choices is Coolors which generates possible options for users. When deciding on fonts, Canva’s Design School provides examples as well as reasoning.
  7. Sources: Finally, when students cite their sources, they not only enhance their credibility when providing data, support, etc., but they are also demonstrating good digital citizenship by avoiding plagiarism and recognizing copyright.

My love for infographics has been reawakened through the teaching of this course. It allows me to blend my passions in literacy and technology. Teaching digital literacy, and the modes that are associated with it as a sub-genre provide accessibility to educators and students for reading, viewing, and creating their own! Here are a few sites to support the creation of Infographics:

Day 3 Digital StorytellingGoogle Draw

Canva

Piktochart

Easelly 

RAFT Prompts & Technology: Writing to Learn Across the Disciplines

RAFTsStudents need an arsenal of literacy strategies to apply in their personal and academic lives. The ability to locate, evaluate, synthesize, analyze, and compose content across multiple communication platforms demand educators to reevaluate their role in literacy. Middle school and high school teachers find this a daunting request, often confusing “Learning to Write” and “Writing to Learn,” and struggle to incorporate strategies to help students Read, Write, and Think in content areas.

“Learning to Write” involves explicit instruction, ranging from Kindergarten lessons in decoding, to understanding grammar or tone as Juniors. Learning to write focuses on a writing process to guide instruction. It can be used across the curriculum; having students construct a persuasive essay in social studies in support of democracy is an example. Through feedback, revision, and conferencing the social studies instructor is supporting the student through a writing process.

“Writing to Learn” provides opportunities for students to explain their current understanding of the learning and concepts being explored in the classroom. As a catalyst for future learning, writing to learn strategies have students recall, question, and clarify what they know and what they are still curious about. Writing to learn strategies often include a teacher developed prompt, but differ in that they are not typically writing pieces that students edit, revise, and take to the publishable state. Instead, students reflect, apply, and demonstrate their current understanding; teachers use this information to help guide future instruction as a type of formative assessment.

Students can learn perspective during writing to learn by using RAFTs Prompts. This acronym stands for:

  • R – Role (who is the writer, what is the role of the writer?)
  • A – Audience (to whom are you writing?)
  • F – Format (what format should the writing be in?)
  • T – Topic (what are you writing about?)                                                                                   and typically added
  • S – Strong Verb (why are you writing this? or purpose:Inform, Argue, Persuade, Entertain)

Gradual Release of Responsibility will help set students up for writing RAFTs prompts. At first, students may answer the same prompt:

  • R – A Jewish prisoner in a Concentration Camp
  • A – Cousin who fled to America
  • F – Letter
  • T – Their living conditions
  • S – Express

When students grasp the RAFTs strategy, student can play more of an active role in the design of the prompt by choosing to fill out the letters themselves . Allowing students to demonstrate understanding through a particular lens and chosen format increases engagement, relevance, and ownership. RAFTs Prompts can be used as formative assessment, to spark discussion, can be created from course content or readings, and can be completed individually or in a small group.

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 5.04.13 PMThrough the addition of technology, teachers can use this strategy as an exit ticket, responded via Google Form. The responses are collected in one spot and the form can be reused. This snapshot of understanding is perfect for determining focus for the next day’s instruction.

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 4.47.59 PMHave students create a comic strip demonstrating understanding of a concept  using Comix. Easy and free to use, comix allows any child to show their creative-side one thought bubble at a time.

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Understanding informational text or a sequential process can easily be demonstrated through Canva. Students can choose from many different layouts and design options to create a professional and free infographic that can be downloaded and shared!

 

 

 

RAFTs Prompts, used as a writing to learn strategy, provides students time to read, think, and write across multiple disciplines and using multiple modes and genres. Allowing student choice in part or all of the selected components increases meaning and engagement, launching our students into the mindset of utilizing writing to work through their understanding of concepts!

 

Fisher, Frey. Improving Adolescent Literacy: Content Area Strategies at Work. Columbus: Pearson, 2008.