Some teachers are turning to infographics in the classroom because the way students experience literature is changing. Web writing, advertising, YouTube, Snapchat, and Vine are condensing the story, and increasingly short pieces dot the student landscape. Whether they’re reading, predicting, or decoding a piece of classical literature or writing and producing short bits for their YouTube channels, the craft of story is still critical.
Good stories have universal themes that can apply anywhere with the swipe of a pen. These themes are what we experience when we read great literature. Understanding the classics on many levels increase written and cultural literacy, helps students dive more deeply into the human condition, teaches problem solving, relationships, and interdisciplinary subject areas. Ultimately, students learn to tell a good story themselves.
Unfortunately, many students ask, “Can’t we just watch the movie?” Here’s where visual learning comes in. Infographics help students decode the more difficult elements of the story so students can access the text better as they read.
Infographics are used to represent, analyze, and decode data, layering on more complex levels of information as you master data skills. See the infographic at right for more information on what an infographic is! The novel is all about relationships, patterns, and themes. All of this is data that can be analyzed using infographics. Characters, plot twists, events, story elements, and rising and falling action are all things that can be drawn, plotted, or represented in an infographic.
So how exactly should you apply infographics to the classroom? Read on for ideas.
Using infographics to teach novels and story: Students can create, critique, and analyze elements of stories, relationships between characters, themes, events, and action in the story using infographics. Students can use infographics as blueprints to work through stories and create stories of their own. See the infographic below for a great example–the creator used this data analysis technique to map out creating a character for a story.
Create an infographic of a story the class is studying: For one idea, you, the teacher, can create infographics in advance to prepare students. Create them to show the characters, plots, and elements of the story to give to students instead of or to supplement notes. You could also give the class an infographic on all of the above elements, except remove the characters, plots, or elements, having students fill them in like a note outline as the class studies the story. In this way, students are piecing together the story as the plot emerges. Alternatively, give each student or group of students one topic for which they will create and present an infographic to the class. This option allows students to take ownership for a complete area of research and analysis, practice skills in groupwork, and use public speaking skills in a presentation.
Create an infographic tying the novel with other things: Take any great novel, and you’ll be able to connect its themes and events with other fields. Have students use a novel you’re studying and create an infographic tying it in with each of the major subject areas you choose (modern-day news stories, music, science, technology, careers, etc). Have students clearly show how the plot, characters, and events in the story connect with all of these things in the outside world.
Fun in the classroom: Infographics do not have to be all business! You can also use them to engage students in a fun learning experience. For example, have you ever studied the Shakespearean insult? Shakespeare’s characters are often extremely witty, but the jokes can get lost in the language and go over students’ heads. Make an infographic showcasing some of the more biting Shakespeare retorts along with a modern-day equivalent to show students how funny Shakespeare really is! If you’ve studied a lot of literature and you’re heading toward the end of the year, you could also have a capstone assignment showing off all the villains from the major novels you’ve read.
So where do you begin? There are endless ways to use infographics and visual learning in teaching literature. You’ll be letting students express themselves while helping to create organizers and visuals that take complex subjects and break them down, making students love the classics they read. Even teachers without art chops can create beautiful graphics using technology today! Give Canva or Piktochart a try–they are both relatively easy-to-use infographic makers with at least some free features. Have fun!
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