Last summer, as part of MERIT, I planned an infographic unit for my seventh grade students. I really wanted to spice up the idea of non-fiction and since my students were going 1:1, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to launch this project.
I'll be honest. I know very little about design. I know what doesn't look good, but I may not be able to articulate why. But in general, my students know more than me and are more artistic than me, so I figured, why not?
Since that project idea I went to Alice Keeler's session on infographics in Google Draw and one other conference session about them. I learned a few nuggets, but generally just left with what I thought were more realistic expectations of what students could do.
But like my students like to do, they proved those expectations wrong. They exceeded them by a long shot. Many of the infographics look professional. One parent even posted his daughter's infographic on Facebook and had graphic designers ask if they could hire her. She's thirteen.
I wish I could say I taught my students all of these wonderful things that made it possible for them to do this. But that'd be a lie. The truth is, I was at conferences and on a class trip while they created them. I just set them up with some examples and got out of the way. We looked at a lot of examples and analyzed what made them compelling and interesting to us. We discussed why we read some and not others. But I taught no step-by-step process. But students are awesome and creative and smart.
When I introduced the project, I started with this template from Alice Keeler and let them play. (One of the things I really like that she emphasizes is a textured/interesting background.) Then I let them choose their own creation tool. They chose to use Pages, Piktochart, or Google Draw. Here's one example from each and a little explanation of what they thought about the tool:
Milan | Pages:
"Pages gave you a lot of freedom. I tried Piktochart before and it was hard to maneuver and you only got a set space to work. I liked how I did it in Pages. Pages gave me a lot of font choices. It was hard at first to make the shapes (I made almost every single one), but it was easy to get used to. It shows alignment lines and you can zoom in and out really easily."
Josh | Piktochart:
"There are many different websites and programs that say they are the best. But the one that looked and cooperated the best for my needs was Piktochart. It was very easy to upload pictures, and they even have their own graphics that you can put in. I did find, however, that the formatting was very hard to control and that, I thought, was its biggest flaw. But overall, Piktochart was a great tool for anybody, from beginner to professional, to use."
Ashley | Google Draw:
"Creating an infographic in Google Draw was not as hard as I thought it was going to be when I first started. For quite a while, I was having trouble integrating the pictures with a transparent background, but once I figured out how to do that in Preview, the project started really moving. I think the eye was the hardest part of the infographic. With Google Draw you don't get many choices for shapes, so it took me multiple class periods to finish it. Otherwise, though, it's a fairly easy program to use."
As you can see, these seventh graders made amazing things. I have a whole window full of them. I love seeing these students' creativity and view of the world.
My biggest piece of advice: go through drafts. I graded them all and then handed them back and allowed them to earn back up to 10 of the 40 points. That last run-through with some specific feedback took many of them to the next level.
It's definitely a project I'll do again, and I'm excited to see that some of my students loved it so much that they began creating infographics in other classes as well. Language Arts isn't just about reading and writing anymore. This is a whole new kind of literacy.