I’m a huge fan of infographics. They let students create a great verbal/visual mix with the content they’ve learned. Plus, they’re lots of fun to look at and share, too.
I’ve written about creating infographics in the classroom with Google Drawings. I’ve made my own infographics, ranging in topics from teaching frameworks to the ripple effect of a teacher. I’ve even created a time lapse video of the creation of an infographic from start to finish.
There’s a hang-up, though.
You start with a blank page and have to hunt for icons yourself.
If you can’t envision your work before you start (or adjust it on the fly), it can be tough.
There’s got to be a better way, right?
Oh, you bet.
I created icon boards as a way to simplify the infographic process. Think of icon boards as “infographics LITE” or “infographics when you’re in a hurry.”
You can use Google Drawings or Google Slides to create your own icon boards — or just use the links below to copy and distribute mine …
The Great Big Icon Board — A massive 20″ x 10″ board with plenty of space for all your students’ ideas.
The Sequential Icon Board — A long, narrow board broken up into sections to show sequence
The Treasure Map Icon Board — A fun pirate-themed board to show sequence as you follow the map
The Art Gallery Icon Board — A simple board with four picture frames to group similar ideas
Icon boards include an open space for students to organize what they’re learning visually, combining text and images. They include plenty of icons that students would likely use from sources like The Noun Project or Flat Icon.
The icons — as well as shapes, text boxes and other elements — are placed in the workspace around the board. They’re not actually on the board until students move them there. Think of it like things sitting around your paper on a desk.
Whether you create your own icon boards or use my pre-created templates, there are a few simple steps to using them.
(If you’re using one of my templates, you’ll need to make a copy of your own using the links above first.)
PRO TIP: When students use an icon or other item in the space around the boards, ask them to copy that item first, leaving the original in the surrounding workspace. That way, they’ll still have a copy of that item if they want to use it again later.
When they’re done, they can turn the icon board in using Google Classroom or your learning management system.
The finished product might look like this …
Icon boards get students right to work. They don’t spend tons of time searching for the perfect icon or shape.
The verbal/visual mix is very brain friendly (aka “dual coding”).
It’s also rooted in “constructionism,” a term coined by Seymour Papert. Students are creating mental models to understand the world around them. In fact, the more constructing they do on their own (and the less “follow the recipe” approach), the better.
“Wait a minute,” you might be thinking. “You have all of these items ready on the icon boards. Doesn’t that limit students?”
My answer? No way.
These icon boards are a starting point. By having the icons, shapes and other items waiting, students don’t spend as much time searching for what they need. By limiting their choices, you help them to focus on the task at hand.
Here’s another way to look at it. Creativity craves constraints, as I’ve learned in the book Intentionby Amy Burvall and Dan Ryder. By having students operate within a construct, it actually unleashes creativity — even from students who wouldn’t consider themselves creative.
Some suggestions to make the most out of these activities:
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