Ready. Set. Write. These three words set the tone for my pedagogic philosophy about writing: For students to improve their writing, they must write often (preferably daily) and they must write in quantity.
I expect students to be ready to write daily. Additionally, rather than announcing an essay assignment at the end of a literature unit, I focus students attention on preparing for major writing assignments throughout our study of literature and weave focused writing instruction into the literature units.
As a teacher, it's my job to help students find their writing voices and to show them they have important things to say.
This lesson is part of the Persuasive Essay Writing Unit. It's a lesson I created as a prewriting exercise to help prepare students for their banned book essays.
I have some artists in my classes, and thinking about tapping into their artistic gifts is something I think about often, especially since I think about teaching English as an artistic profession. For example, I love the ekphrasis (representations of art in literature) in classical Greek poetry. Really, using art in language arts classes harkens back to the origins of literature. I think the same can be said for math, and in writing this, I'm thinking specifically about Archimedes and Leonardo Di Vinci.
Giving students the opportunity to create infographis is a way to guide their research and writing. An infographic requires students to think both critically and creatively. Really, we use infographics whenever we represent information in a visual format. Of course, I'm applying the term to a broad definition.
For the sake of the lesson, I define infographic thusly:
An infographic presents information in both text and image format. It is a juxtaposition of images and words designed to present complex ideas in a concise and easily understandable form.
Wikipedia offers a nice history of infographics with some good images to show their evolution.
To help students visualize infographics and to hook them into the assignment, I show them an infographic. The web has a plethora of options, but Visual.ly is a great website for viewing the best inographics available.
The infographic below shows the difference between traditional and 21st Century ways of presenting information. I show students this infographic for two reasons: First, I want to introduce them to infographics so they can see what they are, and second, I want students to have inspiration for their infographics.
This blog post is the source for the infographic above, and it offers some suggestions for using infographics.
I typically choose to show an infographic relevant to the assignment, which in this case is based on banned books. That's why I chose to show the following infographic to students, and point out the various parts of the infographic by asking them, "What do you notice about the inogrphic?" and "What did you learn about banned books from the infographic?" This gives students a sense of the assignment as it relates to their banned books.
Since I'm more interested in student research and critical thinking, I pay less attention to the format they use for their infographics. Also, I have not yet mastered how to create the infographics like those on Visual.ly, where I have attempted to create one but have had my submissions deleted because they don't meet the site's standards! I tell students this because I want them to see me as a learner, someone struggling with new modes of expression, someone who realizes learning new things takes time and effort and experimentation.
First, I ask students to research banned books. I give them a handout with information about how to research the day before we go to the media center. I want them to have time to think about and process the assignment.
I explain to students that their research will inform two assignments:
1. The infographic, an student example of which is here: Screen Shot of a Student Infographic
2. The persuasive essay
Next, I give students a handout: Banned Books Project. With students, I read the handout and explain its points as we progress through it. It's important to allow students time to ask questions along the way.
I also promise students that we'll have some lab time and that I'll be showing them some examples of infographics.
Since I define infographics loosely, I give students many options for creating theirs. That said, I want them to create a plan for their infographics so provide them instructions for doing this: Inforgraphic Plan. Among the options, I suggest the following:
One student asked if she could create a poster. I said, "Yes. We can then snap a picture of your poster and project it when you give your presentation."
I take students to Prezi.com and show them how to create an account and invite them to watch the video tutorial. I give students brief information about Pecha Kucha:
I tell students I'll help them individually and suggest they read about Pecha Kucha on their own. I promise to show them an example later.
I show students an Animoto I created for a presentation on Life of Pi I gave to a local club around the time the movie was released.