You plan a lesson, activity, or project that just hits all the right marks.
Creativity. Technology. Content. Learning.
And the kids deliver. They participate. They enjoy it. They learn.
And that is how I started 2015 with my 8th graders.
I came up with the initial idea for an infographic project towards the end of the year last year. However, it was too close to the end and there wasn't time for me to squeeze it in. So instead of trying to rush something that wasn't quite ready, I put it off. Stored it in the back of my head as an end of the year final for my 8th grade students.
Throughout the summer, the basic idea of making an infographic grew.
I wanted there to relevance. Validity. I wanted my kids to create something that wasn't just regurgitating facts that I presented earlier in the year. I wanted this project to have some SUBSTANCE to it, so the kids would think "wow, I really have to step up my game. This has to be good!"
The project is this... The 8th graders at Cheney Middle School will create an infographic poster over social studies topics taught in the elementary school. The infographics will be printed off, laminated, and given to those teachers to use at teaching tools in their classroom.
I decided this year to start with the 4th grade teachers. (Future years I will try to hit each grade level in the elementary school...this will ensure that the project can last as long as I want it to.) I have a list of their topics and will assign each student a different topic to research and create a 4th grade level infographic.
But Mrs. Weber! It is January. Why are you talking about an infographic project that you are planning to do in May???
One thing that I have learned as I try to incorporate more technology into my classroom is that you have to build in time for the students to learn the programs before adding in the content and specific requirements. I was worried that I wouldn't have that kind of time in May. So I wanted a "practice round" for students to learn the infographic program, a website called Piktochart, and play around with the fonts, design elements, and graphics. At the same time, this let me practice the process for grading, printing, and what requirements were realistic and/or necessary.
Which brings us to January. It just so happens that I wasn't able to finish our current unit of study before Christmas break. In December, we spent a lot of time talking about the origins of America's first two political parties; the Democratic-Republicans and the Federalists. Then we hit the much needed two-week break. I decided to have the students review those two political parties by creating an infographic.
This accomplished everything I wanted it to. Here are a few things I learned about Piktochart and this type of project.
- These turned out awesome! Some of these kids will be future graphic designers! They have an eye for this kind of thing! Here are some of my favorites....
- Some were not awesome... Some of these kids will not be future graphic designers, and that's ok. There are a few students who need more help in appropriate color schemes, fonts, and graphic placement. It will be important for me to have the students peer review by selecting those kids who have a good eye for graphic design to review the students who struggle.
- It's not always who you think... The students who had really good infographics weren't always the strongest academic students, and some of my strongest students didn't end up with an attractive poster in the end. It is cool to see kids succeed who always struggle, and it is good to have to struggle a little at something if school typically comes pretty easy.
- I will not allow uploaded pictures. This makes students lazy. They just go to google images, find a picture and upload it. Not cool. Many times the picture doesn't fit the scheme of the infographic. They will have to use only the graphics provided on the site. Harsh...maybe. But the students who stayed away from just searching for a picture on the Internet had better overall final products.
- I will have the students print a black and white copy for me to write on as I grade them. I had a pretty basic rubric for this assignment, but many times found myself wanting to write on the actual poster to show them exactly what I meant. If I had a black and white copy as well as their colored one I could do that.
- I was very blunt with some students. I think I even said at one time "that font is ugly, change it now." I need to be sure and continue that the next time. Some kids are very good at understanding sugar-coated phrases like "you may want to rethink that font." But in this case, it is better for the final project (and their grade) if I am blunt.
- Collaboration! The kids worked together to figure out how apply different effects to their project, how to change colors, or layouts that worked best. No two infographics were the same! They were all different, yet multiple times I saw students assisting each other and complimenting others on cool ideas.
With every activity, lesson, or project I always take time to think about what went well and what I need to change for the next go 'round. I made notes as I was grading the posters and overall was very pleased with the results.
I have even heard a few kids say that they can't wait until the final in May!