For just over a month now I have been posting teaching and learning resources both on WordPress and Twitter. I’ve been flattered by the responses I’ve been getting and amazed that I’ve inspired lots of teachers to create engaging resources for their students. Many people have asked me how I think of and produce ideas that are effective and visually appealing. However, there isn’t a simple answer. To take people through a step-by-step process of how I create resources, I have made the ‘Blueprint Engaging Visual Resource Planner’.
The Blueprint Planner works in a similar way to @TeacherToolkit‘s popular and very effective ‘5 Minute Lesson Plan’ and guides teachers through several stages of the resource building process. No doubt, this tool will be useful to some and irrelevant to others although I believe it will help many to move away from the generic Comic Sans worksheet that switches so many of our students off.
I have purposely created this tool to be used as a supplement to a lesson plan and I must stress that the ideas, skills or knowledge you want students to learn comes first. The Blueprint Planner serves to transform these ideas into something accessible and stimulating for students. Here’s how it is broken down:
- Create: Software Choice (Microsoft Word, Publisher, Photoshop): Before you begin, consider how you are going to make the resource. I use Microsoft Word – simple and unprofessional I know, but it works. Word, Publisher and PowerPoint are good for handling images, text boxes, shapes and adding artistic effects.
- Paper/card/ size (A4, A3) Title (question, statement, topic, learning objective): If you know students will be writing on the resource, then paper size should be considered. Will A4 provide enough space for text? Is A3 too big? The title of the resource also should be addressed. Will you use a question or statement that students aim to answer by the end of the lesson? Or a simple topic title? What’s more, will the resource be reused (such as a book mark) or will it be made into a physical 3D shape (see ‘Language Device Mountain’)?
- Theme and Background Image (link to topic) Colours and Fonts linked to Theme: Having a theme for a lesson or resource is a nice touch and keeps learning focused. The resources I have tweeted or posted on WordPress are designed with a specific theme in mind. For example, most ‘Of Mice and Men’ resources use a rustic wooden floor background – in some cases an old American flag is layered behind. In the overlay resources, I generally have a wooden desk – sometimes with additional coffee cup stain ‘png’ images pasted on top. It is simple and easy to find backgrounds and takes no time at all. On Google images, I search for ‘X hd wallpaper’. This normally brings up a high resolution and stylised version of what you are looking for. This can then be copy and pasted onto your document. With regards to colour and font, I do not use striking or vivid colours as they often make documents look childish and old-fashioned. You may disagree. Depending on the topic/theme, I tend to download free new fonts that enhance the look and fit with the image.
- Foreground Image(s) (photo, diagram etc): This is a key part of resource making. If a document is visually appealing, students are more likely to be engaged. I always take images from the internet and always use images of real things. I find resources can look ‘tacky’ and unprofessional when clipart or cartoons are used. A simple Google image search normally does the trick. For example, if I want a picture of a fridge, I type: “fridge png”. I normally search for ‘png’ files as they often do not have a white background. This is really useful to create a realistic effect when placing the image over a background image. If it is not possible to find a picture without a white background, then I remove it myself on Microsoft Word (double click on the image and select ‘Remove Background’). I often consider writing task instructions on foreground pictures. An example of this can be seen on the ‘Unit 1 Presentational Device Support Overlay’ where text is written on top of blank Polaroid pictures. *Initially foreground images may need to be pasted into another blank document so that they can be put “in front of text” before being pasted into your resource document.
- Text Box (Student work/response space): On several resources I have created recently, I have avoided the use of text boxes or spaces for students to write. This is generally because it is vital to monitor student progress over time therefore students need work recorded in books. Nevertheless, work spaces can be useful if they are used to visually show progress. For example, in the SOLO Notebook (see below) I have built a resource that outlines the progression of the lesson whilst incorporating a grid for students to jot down ideas in boxes dedicated to each of the SOLO stages. This can then be used as a tool to help students construct a written response in their books.
- Differentiation (Support and Stretch Tasks): Effective resources include some form of differentiation. ‘Support and Stretch’ was introduced to our department by my colleague @AimeeCasson who often includes these options in PowerPoint presentations. I also offer ‘Support and Stretch’ on a PowerPoint slide, however, it also works effectively on the resource itself. Here’s an explanation if you are unsure of the concept: ‘Support’ is generally a reminder of tools, ideas needed to complete a task to a high standard, whilst ‘Stretch’ tends to be an additional task to encourage students to explore their responses further.
- QR Codes (links to YouTube, webpage, useful resource): If you have read my previous post on QR codes, then you’ll know I’m a massive fan. They are really effective in marking and feedback but also useful in aiding student progress within a lesson. I have included several QR codes on resources posted on Twitter, all of which provide really engaging support to learning. For example, in the ‘Differentiated Boarding Passes’ ‘Of Mice and Men’ home learning task, I included ‘Support and Stretch’ links to YouTube videos on 1930s society and various webpages with summaries of key characters. I have also used codes that link to Examiners’ Reports to help students assess their progress (please see Unit 1 resources). QR codes are simple to generate; go to www.qrstuff.com and enter a specific URL to create. Once you have downloaded the code, it is easy to paste it into a document.
- AfL Opportunity (success criteria, mark scheme information): I find mark scheme information to be extremely useful on a resource. However, it is not always convenient due to space restrictions. If you consider doing this, use only a few level/band descriptors in order to save space. What’s more, it is far easier to paste a image of the mark scheme into your resource rather than typing the whole thing out word-for-word. This can be done by capturing a screenshot. To do this, hold ‘alt’ and press ‘print screen’ on your keyboard. Your image can then be pasted and cropped in Microsoft Word before being dropped into your resource.
- Sketch it (diagram of finished copy): Finally, plan the layout of the resource. By sketching it, you can plan and position elements you may not have considered before. For example, resources often need direction arrows in order to make tasks explicit to students. Furthermore, the layout of information is often crucial to ensure students benefit from the resource. After sketching, evaluate. Make sure you have not overloaded the document with information, boxes, panels or images. Keeping the resource simple is best.
The pictures below show the completed Blueprint Plan for the ‘SOLO Notebook’ resource, plus the finished product.
Please note that the ‘Blueprint Engaging Visual Resource Planner’ will be adapted and developed over time. Feel free to download and provide feedback.
Download: ‘Blueprint Resource Planner’