Introducing Students to Infographics

As a visually oriented guy, I’ve ALWAYS dug infographics as a tool for quickly communicating information to an audience.  There’s something engaging — and easy to consume — about infographics that make them a really neat tool for capturing the attention of readers.

And as a guy who believes that students CAN be powerful and CAN have a voice in today’s world, I’ve always wanted to find ways to introduce my students to infographics.

I figure that if they are going to be heard, they’ve got to start creating content that audiences will actually enjoy.

All of that thinking boiled to a head when two of my favorite middle school language arts teachers asked me if I could help them to dream up a lesson that would engage our students in the process of creating  infographics.

The first decision that I made was to abandon computers completely in the lesson that I was creating.

That was a practical decision in a lot of ways:  First, there simply aren’t enough computers in our building to get all of our 130 students on machines at the same time.  Best case scenario: We sign up for the computer lab and get access to 30 desktops for a class period or two.

Even if we HAD regular access to computers, though, our sixth grade students just don’t have the technical skill necessary to efficiently manipulate the kinds of programs that graphic artists use to create infographics.

While I may have been able to teach those skills to my students, the lesson would have taken weeks instead of days — and with a MASSIVE curricula to churn our way through, we didn’t have weeks for this experience.

So I decided to create a kit of paper materials that my kids could draw from while assembling an infographic. 

Much like the digital kits that I recommend to teachers interested in digital movie-making (see here and here), the paper kit for our infographic project includes a bunch of pre-assembled content (statistics, facts, hashtags, titles, sources, dividers, arrows) connected to the topic of our study: The California Condor — an endangered bird that we’ve chosen to adopt.

You can check out the kits — one includes vertical content and the other includes horizontal content — here:

CondorInfographicVerticalIMAGES

CondorInfographicHorizontalIMAGES

I used PowerPoint to create the slides that you see in these collections — and found a TON of helpful and engaging images on The Noun Project website. The two separate kits work together as one whole collection.  They’re separated simply because infographics need both vertical and horizontal content to be visually appealing.

Our plan is to give groups of students paper copies of the entire collection and then to turn them loose in the hallway to create jumbo-tastic-infographics by arranging content and then gluing it down to butcher paper. 

Once they’ve completed their infographic, they’ll be asked (1). to defend the choices that they make while assembling their infographics and (2). to evaluate the content, layout and visual appeal of the infographics created by other groups.

Here’s the direction sheet for the assembly and evaluation process:

Handout_InfographicDirections

When creating the kits for my students, I tried to include enough content for the kids to assemble a pretty detailed infographic on the plight of the California Condor.

But I also tried to include distractors in the collection as well.  There are slides that are interesting, but wouldn’t neatly fit on an infographic that’s designed to raise awareness about the reasons that the Condor is endangered — or worthy of our protection.

That’s where the higher-order thinking comes in, right? 

While my students don’t have to do much of the grunt-work associated with this project — in an attempt to save time, I’ve already tracked down the content that will appear in their infographics  — they DO have to make careful choices about what to include in their final products.

My students also have to think about layout and design. They’ve got to find ways to organize the content that I’ve assembled for them.  They’ve got to make sure that their infographic isn’t cluttered and that they use text features to create clear visual divisions in their final products.

So whaddya’ think?

Does this sound like a worthwhile lesson?

More importantly, do you think it will work?!

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Related Radical Reads:

Infographic Lesson – Cell Phones in Schools

Using Google Docs to Create Digital Kits

More on Using Digital Kits to Structure Student Projects

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