Creating Infographics in Foreign Language Courses
A Guest Post by Barbara Kurtz
I want my students to WANT TO LEARN. I want them to be capable of communicating about a variety of topics in Spanish. They need to learn with an AUTHENTIC AUDIENCE AND PURPOSE. They need to use language with an AUTHENTIC PURPOSE: this isn’t memorizing words or information; this is communication. They must have opportunities to use their language for an AUTHENTIC AUDIENCE.
There is a world waiting outside my classroom, and I have a direct link through social media. How can I wield this tool to provide my students with an AUTHENTIC AUDIENCE AND PURPOSE?
The students spend several weeks studying the world and geography terms. They develop the vocabulary list (collaborative Google Sheets), related articles (links in Google Sheets), the study aids (Quizlet), and the practice activities (Google Forms, Quizizz, Kahoot). I provide the structure, offer feedback, and uphold accountability.
The students need to learn to search in Spanish for Spanish resources, rather than using English resources and relying on translators for Spanish meanings. Translations are often content-specific, and a simple translation search will provide “words” without the actual contextual meaning. Sometimes we use completely different words to say the same thing.
The students also need to read AUTHENTIC texts and extract information. **They do not have to know every word to understand the meaning.
The students must be able to communicate information in an AUTHENTIC manner. On few occasions will this require a formal paper. Rather, we communicate with summarized, PURPOSEFUL content. From this proceeded the infographic!
AUTHENTIC AUDIENCE (the world)
AUTHENTIC PURPOSE (ready-to-use, accurate, attractive)
- Students searched for Spanish infographics to look at the design: What does a good infographic contain? We discussed the main elements (bold title, unity in design, purposeful images, bulleted texts or short sentences). We also identified the need for attributing information and image sources, and spent some time exploring WikiMedia Commons and Unsplash as sources for free images.
- Students experimented with various infographic creators (Canva, Easel.ly, Piktochart, Postermywall) to determine which they thought would have the best fit and most help. We operated with the free versions only.
- Students proposed a topic for their research and an idea for their design. They had to choose a topic within their research area (continents, realms of space, state of Pennsylvania).
- The students submitted regular updates, pictures of their designs, and links to their project, and I responded with feedback: questions, clarifications, redirection, corrections, etc.
- When the students submitted the final version, they also submitted the embed code so that I could place them on our Shareable Spanish website.
The students’ infographics had to meet five standards:
- Content: the information is relevant, sufficient and interesting; a person could use the infographic to learn
- Spanish: everything on the infographic is in Spanish, and the Spanish is well-written; it contains important information in a summary form
- Images: each image used serves a purpose and contributes overall to the message of the infographic; there are enough images
- Design: the infographic is attractive and well-organized; it catches the viewer’s attention
- References: sources are correctly cited for both information and images; the citations don’t detract from the design of the infographic, or are (preferably) hyperlinked in a Public Google Doc
- The students practiced reading for information, without having to worry about understanding every word.
- They advanced their written communication skills, focusing primarily on summarizing and rewording.
- Each project was unique, chosen by the student, and featuring unique surprises (many have extra features, such as links to informational websites or pop-up information that appears when the mouse hovers over it).
- Some students struggled with developing an idea, or having to change ideas when they couldn’t find enough information.
- Despite the warnings, many students researched in English and then struggled with translating concepts into Spanish.
- The content and quality varied greatly among the 43 submissions. It was hard to evaluate them, even with a rubric.
This is the first year that I have tried infographics, and I didn’t know what I was doing. How could I know what to expect when I had never done it before? How could I set up an evaluative measure for something in which I didn’t even know what the possibilities were? There was a lot of wasted time, especially in my class of 27 students; while I spent time helping one student, four or five were just sitting waiting, four or five were on their phones, some were working, and others were playing a game or doing homework for another class. It felt like a management nightmare. (In the smaller class of 16, I was able to circulate more often to answer questions and keep students focused.)
I will do this again, and I plan to keep the basic idea. Before I do it again, however, I need to incorporate more preceding activities that practice searching in Spanish, summarizing information, and reading for key points. Perhaps we’ll have a lesson that we learn by infographics before we create our own.