Sometimes, no matter how good our routine, we need to shake it up. This is true in exercise; our muscles and our minds need to be surprised occasionally with a new move in order to achieve maximum results. It’s also true in writing. And it’s true in teaching. Sometimes the very thing we need to wake up and recharge our teacher brain is to try something new, experimental, and a little bit unknown.
When my seniors recently finished studying the poetry of Wilfred Owen, none of us could face another essay, no matter how authentic or rooted in the real world of writing. They needed something else — something to re-ignite their brains, something to force new synapses to fire, something to nudge them to view literature with fresh eyes.
So, rather than writing a big paper, I assigned a genre I had never taught and knew little about — infographics!
There are so many good reasons to try infographics — they are beautiful, accessible, offer great opportunities for collaborative work, access different parts of our students’ brains. Best of all, infographic are a very authentic product of real world design and writing. As my students said, “Oh, these are everywhere!” And they are! Open up a new tab, search “Infographics”, and you’ll see oodles.
But this was pretty terrifying to me. I am neither artistic nor extremely visual. I have no graphic design experience, and although I can tell you when an infographic is attractive and clear, I don’t really know how to define those things or tell students how to achieve them. Allison has bravely taught infographics before, so I relied heavily on her wisdom and pep talks to get me through.
Even with Allison’s help and advice, I was still nervous. Nervous like I used to be before every writing study. Nervous like I used to be before I even jumped into writing workshop — what if students asked me questions I couldn’t answer? What if I couldn’t help them? What if the products were disastrous?
Here’s what I decided: to approach the study with honesty and optimism. I confessed to my students that I didn’t know a lot about creating infographics, but we would figure it out together.