Welcome to Infographics! A Toolkit to Get You Started

Infographics are everywhere and our students need to develop literacy skills to make sense of them. This resource is a very good way to kickstart an exploration of infographics in your classroom and one you will keep going back to throughout the year.

The California Academy of Sciences has put together an Infographics in the Classroom Teacher Toolkit that employs infographics as a way “for students to practice key science literacy skills”.  If you are new to infographics and would like to know what they are and how to use them in the classroom, this is a great place to start! 

While the focus of these lessons is science, this toolkit can be used as a how-to guide on infographics in any content area. In fact, the worksheets from Activities 1 & 3 can be printed out and used, as is, to analyze just about any infographic. The website is simple and easy to navigate. It contains a Teacher Toolkit and five easy-to-follow, sequential lesson plans that include lots of opportunity for interaction among your students.

To start you on your infographic journey, I would recommend watching the fun and informative TED talk video that is cited in the Teacher Toolkit. In the video David McCandless, a data journalist, shows his audience the infographic below and asks for guesses on what they think the data might represent. What do you think it could be?

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The infographic is included as part of Activity 1 and can be downloaded as a PDF or a powerpoint. When I showed it to my students, they noticed that there was a peak in March and mid-November and wondered what those months had in common. They guessed it might represent rainfall amounts, cold patterns, snowfall, patterns in spending money, retail sales, homicides, or suicides. Watch David McCandless’ TEDtalk, The Beauty of Data Visualization, to find out what the data above represents and see Activity 1 below for ideas on how you can use it with your students.

The Teacher Toolkit provides background knowledge for teachers on what infographics are and why it makes sense to use them. You will find explicit connections to the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core State Standards in the toolkit.

Interpreting Infographics

Activity 1 includes: a lesson plan, a worksheet, and a set of six infographics. The point of this lesson is to introduce students to infographics and have them analyze the message of the infographic. You may prefer, as I did, to use their data graphic interpretation handout with an infographic of your own choosing that correlates to content you are currently exploring with your students.

I chose to use an infographic that breaks down the elements that are in the human body, which fascinated my students. There’s a lot of numbers in that infographic, so I also used it as a springboard for contextualizing a math lesson. I then followed up with an additional resource, from ASU School of Life Sciences, to verify the numeric information that was presented since the infographic did not cite a source.

Visually Representing Data

Activity 2 asks students to compare identical information that is presented in different ways. An example is shown below:

ev (1)

ev (2)

pictures of animals

How is the data represented in each graph? What do you like or dislike about each graph? Which one do you think is most accurate in depicting the data?

While the worksheets in this activity are specific to this set of graphs, the compare & contrast questions that are featured could be used with any set of graphs that contain similar data.

Critiquing Infographics

Activity 3 guides students through the process of how to critique graphics. My students were really engaged in this activity, which I believe was due to (1)  allowing students to choose which infographic they wanted to evaluate (2) the varied and interesting set of infographics that are in this set and (3) because they knew they would be presenting their review to the class.

A rubric, Graphic Principles for Visualizing Scientific Data, is introduced in this lesson which serves as a guide for lessons to follow. This lesson gets students thinking critically about how the information is presented in the infographic with the objective of laying a foundation that prepares students for making their own graphs.

Making Infographics

Activity 4 includes a data set, graph paper, and instructions on several different ways to graph the data set. This activity gives students a really good sense of how important it is to think carefully about how the visual representation of data significantly impacts the message that is being communicated. The activity includes a link to a video, Science in Action: Sea Lion Pups, created by California Academy of Sciences that you can share with your students to give them some background information that makes the data meaningful.

Activity 5 extends the former activity and guides students through the process of thinking about how they can represent data visually by giving them the task of drawing a sketch of a data set, with the end goal of turning that sketch into an infographic. Suggestions on free online infographic tools that students can use to create an infographic are supplied in the Teacher’s Toolkit.

A few final recommendations
  • Longish infographics: A few of the infographics included in these activities were originally designed to be viewed on a computer screen or electronic device and don’t lend themselves well to the printed page. Thus, if you have technology available it may be advisable to have your students pair and share a laptop, desktop, or tablet to view and analyze infographics that are longish. Links to the infographics that are featured in the activities are cited in the lesson plans.
  • Color: In most infographics color is used to help convey the message, so if you have access to a color printer you should print out at least one copy of each infographic in color.  You can them slip the infographics into page protectors for students to share.
  • For some ideas on how to use infographics and math to contextualize your instruction, see my post at Tech Tips for Teachers (a World Education Resource), and my article in The Math Practitioner, a newsletter published by The Adult Numeracy Network (ANN).

Please use these activities with your students and let me know how it goes. And if you find any other great infographics that work really well with your class, please share them in the comments below.

 

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About Patricia Helmuth

Patricia lives on a farm in upstate New York where she likes to take long walks and watch the flowers and hay grow tall. She also enjoys bird watching, so supplies a ginormous amount of bird seed outside her windows for that purpose. She diligently takes lots of pictures in the summer when her family is putting in the hay, when the birds are visiting, and when the flowers are in bloom. When not taking pictures at home, she can be seen frequently snapping pictures in her class, as she endeavors to capture student thinking and aha moments during their daily math adventures.

8 thoughts on “Welcome to Infographics! A Toolkit to Get You Started

  1. Patricia, you’re a star! Someone set up your TED Talk already. Loving your write up (especially that you don’t give away any of the “answers”–full of intrigue!).

    Clicking around, I especially like the data graphic critique handout. It includes questions that are approachable but still ask students to do deep thinking.

    Your recommendations at the end of this review are also so thoughtful. Really helpful anticipatory notes for those who may want to utilize these materials. Thanks!!

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    1. Parvoneh,

      Another great thing about the data graphic critique is that it can be used with any infographic!

      I really see a lot of potential in using infographics in our classrooms to contextualize instruction, because they draw students in. At the same time, while infographics are designed to say a whole lot on one page, they usually don’t say it all, so it prompts student inquiry.

      Thanks,

      Patricia

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  2. Patricia, you have created yet another great resource! I love that your post takes all of the guesswork on setting this up in an Adult Ed classroom. It provides contextualized learning activities that look so easy to implement. Our world is definitely filled with infographics, and your activities are all any adult ed teacher needs to get started. Phenomenal!

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  3. I want to share this website with you. It can come in handy for anybody with a projector. The website is called Show World (http://show.mappingworlds.com/usa/ ). It shows a map of either the world or the United States. You then click on a category such as population. The size of the states (or countries) then expand or decrease to indicate the size of their population relative to other states (or countries). There are probably about 100 different categories you can choose from. I found it recently, so I have not been able to try it with students yet, but it seems as though it would be a great tool to get students making predictions and discussing events or policies.

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  4. For a growing collection of infographics used by teacher leaders with their students, please visit our Infographics Google Drive folder here – https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B5AHThRUZrr-TE14bjVkQVlHRDQ.

    For those on Pinterest, you can also find infographics on The NYSEDTL Pinterest page here – https://www.pinterest.com/nysedtl/nysedtl-infographics/

    Please send us any infographics you’ve had success with in your classes.

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  5. I just added a few new charts at Mark’s Google link above. I’m working with another teacher to plan out a series of lessons on heredity and genetics. We were thinking to introduce DNA by starting with a question: What are humans made of? and then look at charts that show our physical composition at the level of atoms, molecules, and cells. For example, we’re 65% oxygen, also 65% water, and 57% bacteria cells. Take a look at the charts.

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