Friday, June 30, 2017

Social Studies, Advertising, And Persuasion: Student Travel Magazines Sell Tourism

ASIDE 2017
Over ten years ago, we heard a presentation entitled “Ban the Bird Units” by librarian and educator David V. Loertscher. Essentially, it encouraged teachers and students to get away from the mundane use of facts as reporting mechanisms. This especially holds true today in the age of Google. At the time, Loertscher used the typical biographical research report as an example of a “bird unit” in which students responded to a series of questions that followed a timeline.

The state project is another example of the typical “bird unit” in which students have to find the state motto, bird, flower, etc. Ugh! Our question is who cares? Sure, it’s good to know your state particulars, but all that can easily be found on

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For us, it's the “so what” or remix of research to deliver content that demonstrates a higher-order thinking process with other skills that go beyond mere facts. The state magazine covers in this post required research, creative writing, and media literacy to do just that.

The students were challenged to develop clever ways to entice readers to visit their states, including titles that used alliteration for the magazine masthead and catchy sales lines just below the masthead with one of the state’s main marketing points.

They looked at the design and layout of real travel magazines. We discussed the different techniques that advertisers used to attract attention, and we critiqued covers based on design, color, and layout to see which ones were most effective in creating visual appeal. The students also observed the conventions for writing the story taglines as ways to hint at the content inside.

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The kids had a ball bringing their states to life, and they willingly helped each other out to create clever promotional ideas. The process seamlessly integrated social studies content with media literacy skills. Their finished designs became the focal points to attract visitors to their booths at the school's annual State Fair.

As for the birds, they left the nest!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sketchnotes: Pushing Linear To Visual

ASIDE 2017
It’s been a hectic spring, and as we approach the end of school in fewer than 8 days, we are busier than ever. Of late, we’ve had a tendency to overthink what to post, instead of just sharing the many good things that we do with our students to promote making thinking visual. To that end, we thought we’d share in this post some of the sketchnotes that our students completed this year.

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One of the things we try to do is steer clear of just filling in worksheets and graphic organizers; instead, we want our learners to design their own organizational structures of information. We did this with our digital citizenship pledge this year. The students visually designed their own pledges. This approach let them focus on the content and create a graphic display of what it means to be a good digital citizen.

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Since our students routinely use sketchnotes in a variety of subjects and on multiple grade levels, many of them include visual annotations, or doodles if you will, on their own as reference points. We see it in their notes and sometimes in the margins on an assessment.

A few other unique examples we wanted to share were completed in a lesson about the different types of primary sources. Ask any student about where they can find primary source information, and most will say books and the Internet.

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This sketchnote activity opens their eyes to the vast array of places to locate primary documentation and firsthand accounts of information. The examples in this post represent some of the unique ways our learners visually organize how they think about content.

Sketchnotes are used to give context to content, and this design process helps with comprehension and retention of material. It’s one more tool for helping students to make thinking visible.

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