LOTF: One Word Assignment

Each student will be assigned a chapter from Lord of the Flies (see your assigned chapter below). For this assignment you are to choose a word that has a strong connection to the chapter you have been assigned. Your word should not only describe the characters but also relate to the chapter in both tone and mood. You’ll share your word in class using an 8.5×11 inch sheet of paper that will be projected using the document camera. On the paper, include the following:

  • Chapter # and title
  • Your word
  • Denotation and Connotation (5 pts) – Denotation is a dictionary definition; connotation is other ideas or images associated with the word.
  • Description of how this word relates to your chapter (10 pts)
  • At least two quotes from the chapter that support your choice (10 pts)
  • At least two images that relate to the chapter and to your word (5 pts) – think beyond literal images, but also metaphorical or symbolic ones, too.

Here is an example from Act 4 Scene 1 of Much Ado about Nothing.


Click to enlarge.


Review your assigned chapter. In your English notebook, begin brainstorming words that describe your chapter. The word does NOT need to be in the chapter. Look for quotes that will help to support your choice of word.


Thursday, 1/7, at the beginning of class. Be prepared to present to the class and explain your choices.


Note that each student must complete his/her own assignment. You will not be working in teams, but individually.

Chapter Period 3 Period 5 Period 6
Chapter 1
  • Connor
  • Kaitlyn C.
  • Ryan
  • Jenny
  • Julian
  • Praket
  • Amelia
Chapter 2
  • Daniel S.
  • Hannah
  • Emily
  • Clare M.
  • Joe
  • Emme
Chapter 3
  •  Suma
  •  Will
  • Shray
  • Gabi
  • Julia H.
  • Jack M.
Chapter 4
  •  Caroline
  •  Michal
  • Henry
  • Sarah B.
  • Katherine G.
  • Jake
Chapter 5
  •  Anna
  •  Owen
  • Sarah C.
  • Nia
  • Jordan Z.
  • Max
Chapter 6
  •  Ashley
  •  Alex
  • Ally
  • Laura
  • Leila
  • Jack C.
Chapter 7
  •  Jordan Roe
  •  Ella
  • Hyunjoon
  • Brandon
  • Miles
  • Julia K.
Chapter 8
  •  Jojo
  •  Claire C.
  • Becky
  • Brendan
  • David
  • Jordan Ros
Chapter 9
  •  Kaitlin A.
  •  Jacob
  • Maddie
  • CC
  • Yubin
  • Alysa
Chapter 10
  •  Minju
  •  Juneseo
  • Cameron
  • Grace
  • Claire Mac
  • Caitlin W.
Chapter 11
  •  Kayla
  •  Daniel B.
  • Sam
  • Kemp
  • Blair
Chapter 12
  •  Abby
  •  Paul
  • Katherine C.
  • Taimur
  • James

Visual ID cards

In order to get to know each of my students as quickly as possible, I ask that you introduce yourself using a “visual ID card.” You’ll receive a large index card in class. On this card, please include your name and any and all other information that tells me something about you.

As the name suggests, you should include visuals: drawings, pictures, words, color, charts, graphs. . . whatever and however you’d like to represent yourself. Think of this visual id card as the “infographic of you.”

Use color and fill the page. You may take a “collage” approach, or create something a little more organized (for example, a series of pie charts about you).

For inspiration, take a look at some of these wonderful visual biographies from James Gulliver Hancock’s book, Writers, Artists, Thinkers, and Dreamers.

Click on the image to see the images on Pinterest.

Click on the image to see the images on Pinterest.

And because I try to make an effort to do assignments alongside you, here’s mine:

Visual ID Card Mrs Ebarvia 2

And here are ones that my 9-year-old and 7-year-old sons did:

Visual ID Matthew Visual ID Toby

For additional ideas, check out this site of 83 infographics, which has some wonderful examples of how to represent information visually.

IMPORTANT: Use only your FIRST name on the front of your card (last name on back).

Please have your Visual ID cards ready on Wed., 9/9.

A Year in Your Reading Life: An Infographic

As a final reflection for the school year, create an infographic that represents your life as a reader over the course of ninth grade.


Create a list of all the books that you have read over the course of this year (both class novels and independent reading). Consult your Goodreads page and/or the Online Independent Reading Log to make sure you’ve accounted for all the books you’ve read since September (for example, here’s my Goodread’s page with my recently read books).

Make sure your books have the accurate “Date Read” recorded. A quick way to check is to click on your “My Books” link and check, as below:

Goodreads date read


When your Goodreads account is updated, you can not only keep better track of all your books, but Goodreads has a neat “stats” feature that will automatically tally your total number of pages read! Go to the “My Books” link in your Goodreads account and follow the screenshots below to see how many pages you’ve read.

Goodreads Stats

Clicking on “Stats” will take you a page that allows you to see bar graphs with how many books you’ve read, by year:

Goodreads Book Stats

If you click on Pages, Goodreads will automatically convert how many books you’ve read into total number of pages:

Goodreads Pages Stats

NOTE: Goodreads calculates by the regular calendar year, so you’ll have to add the number of pages from 2014 to 2015. Also, in order for this to work properly, each book you’ve read this year must have an accurate “Date Read” for each book – see above.


Take a look at the books you’ve read.

Think numbers: how many books have you read? pages?

Think patternsWhat stands out to you? What similarities/differences do you notice? Think about how you can represent the books you’ve read visually through graphs or charts.


  • Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 2.44.02 PMUse an online program such as OnlineChartTools.com to create simple charts and graphs. If you use this site, be sure to register for a free account so that you can save your charts to edit and work on later.
  • Download images of book covers to add visual interest, and use eye-catching fonts and colors throughout to create a consistent design.
  • Browse the gallery of images, pictures, icons, and other graphics available on Canva.com (or whatever other program you may be using) to brainstorm ideas for how you can represent your data (for example, there are some great illustrations of trees… think of how each branch could represent a different genre of book).
  • Use a blank piece of paper to “draft” your infographic by hand before creating your final version.


Your infographic should include a clear title with your name and dateplus the following:

  1. Total number of books read this school year, displayed prominently
  2. Indication of type of books you’ve read (a breakdown by genre or other type)
  3. At least one book-related superlative (for example: favorite book, book that made me cry, biggest cliffhanger, happiest ending, etc.)
  4. At least one character-related superlative (for example: favorite character, character I loved to hate, character I’d want to be my best friend, etc.)
  5. At least one “notable quotable” from one of your favorite books
  6. A total number of 7 elements on your infographic (#1 to #5 listed above, plus two more of your choice).


You may use any online program to create your infographic, especially if you have already used an infographic program for another class. However, whatever program you choose, you  must be able to send me a digital copy of the infographic.

For that reason, I strongly suggest using Canva.com (what we used for our Read-A-Thon posters), which allows users to download the digital files. Canva, however, does not allow you to create charts and graphs within the program, but you may use OnlineChartTool.com to create a chart of graph and then upload it to your Canva account (This is what I did to create my infographic, below). Updated: Another recommended online program is Piktochart.com. A few students recommended using this and it also looks great and user-friendly!


If you are artistic and would rather create your visual by hand, please do so! All the requirements listed above still apply.


  1. Download the image file (jpg, png) or PDF of your infographic when you are finished.
  2. Upload the file to your school OneDrive account.
  3. Select the uploaded file. Click “Share” and search for “Ebarvia, Tricia.” Then hit “Share.” See screenshots below (click to enlarge):

Due Friday, 6/12, by the start of class.


And finally, here’s what I came up with. Notice that in addition to the title and name, there are ten distinct elements included on this infographic: # of books, favorite book, books by type (pie charts), book ratings (bar graph), 5-star book list, characters I loved, books that made me…, notable quotables, # books published this year, and what I’m currently reading.

Also, don’t forget to Google additional ideas for your infographic. While certain information is required, how you design your infographic is up to you—and the possibilities are endless!

Year in Reading 2015 (1)

A Visual Syllabus

One of the first documents I revisit at the start of any school year is the syllabus. After all, it’s the first thing I hand out to students. The syllabus provides students with their first overview of what they’ll be learning in the upcoming year. It’s the “first impression” they have of the class and, by extension, of me.

Each year, I update my syllabus to reflect changes in the curriculum. But aside from swapping out a book title and changing the dates, the syllabus usually stays the same. Recently, however, I came across an interesting idea on Dr. Curtis Newbold’s blog, The Visual Communication Guy. In a post titled “Would a Course Syllabus be Better as an Infographic?”, Newbold shared his experience changing his syllabus from a traditional text into an infographic. He received an overwhelmingly positive response from his students and colleagues.

I decided to try it out for myself and spent some time updating the course syllabus for my AP Lang class. I used ease.ly to create the infogaphic. When I was finished the design process, I could then download the infographic as a PDF as well as JPEG file.

So here’s what my syllabus looked like before:

AP Lang traditional syllabus combined

And here’s the infographic version I created last week:

APLangSyllabus 1

 Just looking at these two documents, it’s not hard to see how the infographic version is much more attractive of the two. If I were a student, I know which course I’d rather take, and honestly, as a teacher, I know which course I’d rather teach!

So what did I learned from this exercise?

For one thing, moving to a visual syllabus meant that I had to cut down on text. . . and cut down substantially. My original syllabus was two pages long. I made a decision that when I made the infographic version that I would limit myself to a single page. Because I had this limit, I was forced to really think about every piece of content I wanted to include and decide whether or not it was really necessary. What was essential information and what was nice-to-know-but-not-necessary?

Doing this also forced me to think about my audience—my students—in a way I hadn’t before. In deciding what information was essential, I had to put myself in my students’ shoes and think about what they needed to know. My previous syllabus had all the information my students needed, but they didn’t necessarily need all of it. Then I had to frame the information in such a way, using words and pictures, that they could best understand it.

Finally, creating a visual syllabus made me rethink the course itself. What is the course ultimately about? How can I convey this information using pictures and other visual elements such as font and color? How can I then arrange the information so that it’s both attractive and easy to read? In thinking about these issues, I wasn’t just writing a syllabus, I was designing one.

Applications / Implications:

  • In what ways can other information be revised to be more visually appealing and interesting?
  • What opportunities can I give students to not just gather information, but to also design it?

On a related note, Newbold has another great post titled “10 Lame Documents that Would Be Better as Infographics” about . . . well, you can probably guess. 🙂


I have drawn a map. It’s one of the first things I did. 

– J. K. Rowling

One of my new (school) year resolutions is to try to tap into the power of visual art. As a hobbyist photographer, I know first-hand the power of the image and its ability to convey emotion, truth, and wonder, sometimes in ways that the printed word cannot.

A single picture or image, if well-chosen, can often times communicate an idea more succinctly than words. Words and pictures, in tandem, can be powerful tools. Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like An Artist is just one of many example of this new type of “hybrid” communication.  Here, for example, is one of my favorite pages from his book:


Kleon could have written hundreds of words to describe the gap between where we are now and dreams we strive for. But the simple image above is powerful because it tells us everything we need to know with relatively few words: that the gap can be wide, that it will take hard work—and some creativity—to make it across, and that it may require a certain amount of risk to make that critical leap if we want to achieve our dreams.

My interest in Kleon’s work led me to other visual artists, including the work of Dan Roam, whose “show and tell” premise is simple, but powerful:

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 1.01.25 PM

Anyone who has watched a TED Talk knows that this is the basic formula for many, if not most, of them. And although I’m clearly not on the same stage as Sir Ken Robinson, Elizabeth Gilbert, or Daniel Pink, I “present” material every day to my students. Why not integrate even a little bit of these three steps into my teaching?

As an English teacher, I think I’ve got a handle on numbers 1 and 2. After all, isn’t telling the truth through story exactly what great literature does?  Alas, my actual drawing skills leave much to be desired.

The thing is, I used to love to draw when I was younger. In fact, I carried a sketchbook around with me throughout high school even though I never actually took an art class. Because I “thought” I was going to be a doctor one day, I doubled-up on science classes in high school, leaving no other room in my schedule for electives. It’s a decision I still regret, and perhaps one reason I find myself enrolling my sons in extra art classes during the summer.

But visual notetaking has tremendous potential. After all, we process so much information visually.

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 4.16.53 PM

Here, and below are two excerpts from a great infographic, “Why We Crave Infographics” – very meta!

We also remember information much better when we engage our visual and kinesthetic senses into our processing. Drawing, after all, is kinesthetic as well as visual.

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 4.28.18 PM

But like I’ve said before, my drawing skills are definitely lacking. And I imagine that while there are plenty of students who are naturally gifted artists and visual thinkers, many more may feel the same nervousness I feel when asked to draw.

But there’s just so much upside to learning how to integrate writing and drawing. I became even more convinced of the potential for visual note-taking after seeing this TED Talk earlier this year.


As the speaker, Rachel Smith, points out, visual note-taking “is not about drawing. It’s not about making beautiful pictures. It’s not about making detailed images. It’s not about accurately drawing a person or a car or a lightbulb. It’s not even about doing something that’s recognizable to anybody other than yourself.” She continues,

The thing you need to do with visual note-taking is capture what you’re hearing in a way that’s memorable for you.

Smith goes on to outline three simple steps for getting started: 1) pick a took, 2) develop a few basic icons, and 3) listen for and capture key points. After that, it’s all practice.

In my experience, the only way to conquer a fear is to face it head-on. So this year, I’ll be drawing alongside my students. I’ve already started practicing some techniques and have even ordered Michael Rohde’s The Sketchnote Handbook.  He has some amazing examples of sketchnotes produced from his book on his website, sketchnotearmy.com. Looking at these sketchnotes, it’s easy to imagine how engaging this process could be for students, and of course, for me, too. 🙂

My first feeble attempts at sketchnotes.



Writing with an Artist’s Eye

Three years ago, I took a course called “Visualizing Words and Worlds” through the PA Writing & Literature Project (PAWLP) and this past July, I had an opportunity to co-teach the class for the second time at the James Michener Museum in Doylestown (a fantastic museum, by the way!).  The premise of the “Visualizing” course is simple: by integrating art and other visual activities into our instruction, we can help students become better writers and readers.

If you think about it, this makes sense. After all, we learned how to read by first looking at pictures, and when we teach younger students how to write, we often ask them to draw pictures next to their sentences. Too soon perhaps, we begin to rely on text only. Pictures disappear from books and doodles are relegated to the corners of notebooks when students are bored in class.

To get teachers thinking more deeply about art-reading-writing connections, every day during the course, a visiting artist comes in to teach, with each artist working in a specific medium.  We learned how to paint using watercolors, sketch a human face, make original prints, and finally, create our own found object sculpture. Although none of us were certified art teachers, the connections between art and reading and writing became more clear with each passing day.  An illustrator who draws a picture uses a variety of brushstrokes to achieve a specific effect. In the same way, a writer can “paint” a picture in the reader’s mind by using his own set of “brushstrokes”—a dramatically short sentence, a sentence fragment, a metaphor, a pun.

Children's book illustrator Peter Catalanotto's sketching workshop

Children’s book illustrator Peter Catalanotto’s sketching workshop

Even some of my best student writers struggle when I ask them to “show not tell.”  What does it mean to show?  Visual artists, however, are always “showing.”  The concrete details of their art—the choice of subject, the flurry of each brushstroke, the precise shades of color—work together for an intended effect.  When we think visually when we write, it’s easy to see how it’s the simple concrete details that can speak volumes.

In an essay for Now Write: Nonfiction, NPR contributor and teacher Christine Hemp writes:

William Carlos Williams dictum about things being the life of poetry holds true in creative nonfiction. . .  The essay teeming with “stuff” is much more memorable than one that floats in abstraction.  A piece about love doesn’t end up in our cells unless it is grounded in the softness of your lover’s neck as it disappears into the collar of his sweatshirt.  Or what about that scab you picked while you were crying on the phone to the man you knew would leave you by spring?  Just like the strong poem, the strong piece of prose is rife with metaphorical power—from your mother’s out-of-tune piano to the orphan sock that keeps showing up in your tangled underwear drawer.  When we turn to things, the truth comes at us through the back door, and we are surprised by ideas and emotions we didn’t know we possessed.

As Hemp points out, it’s the visuals that create meaning for us as readers.  And thinking visually means thinking—and writing—with an artist’s eye.

Printmaking workshop (with artist Jean Burdick)

Printmaking workshop (with artist Jean Burdick)

Taking and even teaching the “Visualizing” course also reminded me also of what it’s like to be on the other side of the classroom as a student.  You could measure my level of artistic ability with your pinky—that’s how talented I am!—and as such, being asked to sketch a human face on the first day of class is an intimidating experience.  But my nervousness with drawing is not unlike the trepidation many students feel with writing.  Working in the visual arts, as opposed to the language arts, forces me out of my comfort zone into a place where I have to take risks. And isn’t that what we want our students to do, too?

Finally, the course has inspired me to try taking integrating more visuals into my writer’s notebook as well.  Like I said, I’ve got pinky-sized artistic talent, so we’ll see where this goes…

To view more images from the course, click here

Special thanks to all the artists who gave their time to work with our teachers, and to Adrienne Romano, Director of Education, New Media, and Interpretive Initiatives at the Michener Museum, who is instrumental in making our course happen.