Lesson Plan

Looking at Lit with Infographics

Students "crunch" literary texts and represent their findings visually
Charles Y.
Classroom teacher
Bethel Park High School
Bethel Park, PA
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My Grades 9, 10, 11, 12
My Subjects English Language Arts
Objectives

Students will be able to...

explore a literary text* in quantitative ways

to analyze the quantitative results in qualitative ways

to represent ideas, motifs, themes, plots, or character development visually in an infographic using

such elements icons, repetition, metaphor, numbers, graphs, charts, timelines, and text

to write a reflective analysis of the research process, results of the compilation of the infographic, and conclusions and possible insights

* classics text, which are available online work especially well because they are digitally searchable

Subjects
English Language Arts
Math
addition
counting
estimation
graphing
measurement
patterns
Grades 10 - 12
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 HOOK: Set Students' Sites on Infographics (Day 1)

Infographics are everywhere today, especially in magazines and on the Web.  Thus, students tend to be familiar with them, but maybe have not known what they were or considered their design.  It’s good to define infographic (a visual image such as a chart or diagram used to represent information and data) and take a look at a variety of formats.  A Web image search can bring up examples and a useful resources is coolinfographics.com.  Kathy Schrock's Web page on infographics for assessment is also great for teachers to get up to speed. Wonderful examples are to be found at informationisbeautiful.net 

Look at a couple together with your class, either projected, on digital screens or printed out; then assign a variety to pairs or trios to look for elements such as headlines, subheads, charts, diagrams, timelines, icons, text, etc. Have each group study the design and report to the class about these elements. Ask students to note what sorts of information is easily conveyed in an infographic (numerical, quantitative, timelines, statistics)

Finally, announce the assignment of looking at a literary text and make an infographic to represent some element (motifs, thematic universals, plots, or character development).  This is best done after reading and discussing the text and these elements in some depth, perhaps as part of unit assessment. 

Ask students to review the key elements of the text. Write these on the board or on a shared Google doc.  Then assign topics or have students select from the list. It is helpful if everyone has a unique topic to study in more depth and present in an infographic..

 

2 FOCUS THE PROBLEM: Brainstorm a Research Prompt (DAY 1 - 2)

Activity: Investigating

Once students have their topics, they will need to do further research and gather data.  Students are likely to have not thought of literary texts in this way.  In fact, adding up instances of a particular word or situation, charting events on a time line, or making a flow chart of character interactions may seem quite foreign, and even superficial at first.  Gathering the data is the first step.

As the students begin, it advisable to give some general requirements, such as how many different visual representations will be required. Setting a minimum of three and an expectation of 4-6 is a starting point. You may also want to assign variety of representation as an expectation, so students think and represetn ideas  in multiple modes. Refer back to the examples in the hook.

Now, is the time to prompt students to find creative solutions to their research problem. If the text is in the public domain or available in a digital version online, students may use browser tools to their advantage.  The browser tool of Find can be helpful in searching for specific words or ideas.  Here students have to think about keywords and synonyms. They can count the instances, see where they occur in the text, and make qualitative judgments about what they learn. Then they design a means of representing their findings.

It’s helpful for students to make lists and rough designs.  They might use Google Apps such as Docs, Sheets, or Drawing to do so.

 

3 RESEARCH: Students Gather Data on the Text (DAYS 3-4)

Google Drive
Free, Paid

Once students have their topics, they will need to do further research and gather data.  Students are likely to have not thought of literary texts in this way.  In fact, adding up instances of a particular word or situation, charting events on a time line, or making a flow chart of character interactions may seem quite foreign, and even superficial at first.  Gathering the data is the first step.

As the students begin, it advisable to give some general requirements, such as how many different visual representations will be required. Setting a minimum of three and an expectation of 4-6 is a starting point. You may also want to assign variety of representation as an expectation, so students think and represetn ideas  in multiple modes. Refer back to the examples in the hook.

Now, is the time to prompt students to find creative solutions to their research problem. If the text is in the public domain or available in a digital version online, students may use browser tools to their advantage.  The browser tool of Find can be helpful in searching for specific words or ideas.  Here students have to think about keywords and synonyms. They can count the instances, see where they occur in the text, and make qualitative judgments about what they learn. Then they design a means of representing their findings.

It’s helpful for students to make lists and rough designs.  They might use Google Apps such as Docs, Sheets, or Drawing to do so.

 

4 GUIDED PRACTICE: Introduce Piktochart to Create Infographic (DAY 5)

Piktochart
Free, Paid

Having completed the tasks of research and rough drafting their data. Students are ready to begin designing a digital infographic. I recommend Piktochart.com for this task.  The Web site offers free and paid accounts, and the free ones provide plenty of resources for students to make engaging designs.  Students do need to create their own account. If they have a Google account they can do so with a one-button sign-in.

It is helpful to get students started by the teacher giving an online tour and starting a project.  Introduce the templates and instruct on how students may customize these with color, fonts, and design. I also suggest teachers make a model before class. Not only are you able to give a custom example, but you’ll learn the functionality of site. Allow a couple hours of prep time for your first go; you, too, will need to prepare your data before jumping into designing.

5 WORKSHOP: Adding Graphics & Building Visuals (DAYS 6-9)

Piktochart
Free, Paid
Google Drive
Free, Paid

Though Piktochart offers a good array of icons and images students may want to augment their designs. This is an excellent time to teach about copyright and reuse of elements found elsewhere.  Some students may want to design their own graphics. Google Drawing, Google Slides, and PowerPoint are great aids in accomplishing this or modding ones from Piktochart.

A few go-tos that are easy to use for icons is flaticons.net and flaticon.com. Have students note simple attribution requirements for use. They can add credits to the bottom of their infographic.

Students will require about four hours of online workshopping to complete their project. Being Web-based they may work outside of class and at home if they have computer and Internet access.  Throughout the process the you may conference with students and coach on ways to represent their data visually using the Web tools.

6 PUBLISHING: Sharing the Infographics (DAY 10)

Students may download their infographics under File / Download as image. This produces a PNG file. The image can then be uploaded to a class Web site, wiki, or other digital platform for viewing.  

Alternatively, students can email their infographics to themselves and save the images to their phones and tweet them on Twitter of post on Facebook.

Although designed for digital environments, you may want to have students print them in large formats (at least as wide as a sheet of paper).  This can be done by inserting the PNG file to an Excel sheet and resizing until it is the desired size.  Excel allows for a tiling of pages so the image can be extra long over several pages and pasted together manually.  With color printing, these poster-sized infographics make great educational displays.

 

7 REFLECTION & WRITING: Student Assessment of Learning

Activity: Assessing

To help students pull their thinking and work together, assign a brief 200-word narrative on the process and results.  Ask the students to talk about their research question (starting idea), and research process. What did they find? What was difficult or easy to find and why? What more did they learn about the text through the process? And how did they represent it? These paragraphs may be displayed along with the infographics, or added to the infographic proper at the bottom.

Additionally, students may orally present their learning in class and host a gallery walk of the posted infographics.

After teaching classic texts, such as Shakespearean plays, I have enjoyed this new mode of engagement.  Students’ thinking is stretched to find unexpected perspectives and insights by crunching the quantitative data, looking at the numbers qualitatively, and representing the results visually as well as in written reflection.