Not gonna lie. I love graphic design. I always have, ever since I was a really little girl, and I would pore over the “look” of Highlights for Children and Sesame Street albums (for instance, Born to Add) and nonfiction books from the library. Having taken an interest in design my whole life has really come in handy when making reading material for students, especially for students who need extra visual support for comprehension.
In World Language classes, that’s ALL the students, by the way.
A lot of teachers are intimidated by graphic design. But there are a few simple overarching principles that can help you grow in confidence. Plus, when you see the difference even the “clunkiest” or most amateur visual support makes for your students, you will realize that you do not have to be the Pablo Picasso of Pedagogical Aids to make a BIG impact on your students’ enjoyment and achievement in reading. The impact will be felt most of all by students for whom reading is often a challenge.
You can get a bunch of free reading material for your students at our Teachers Pay Teachers store where you can download our Year of Free Curriculum through the end of the 2020-2021 school year. And if you want to see these resources in action, and learn the nuts and bolts of how to use them, join us at Summer Institutes.
We will walk you through the materials step by step so you will have the materials and know-how to use them with confidence!
I cut my Writing Things for Students teeth on texts I made for my students in my Tier Two Reading Intervention classes, and I can tell you from years of personal experience that there is NO BETTER feeling as a teacher than knowing that you are making a difference for your students who have the most work to do to grow stronger as readers!
Let’s look at these two examples of Reading Workshop texts from the French version of the Free Year of Curriculum. In the materials, each phase contains a series of Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced, and Challenge Level reading workshop texts. Each phase focuses on a different text type, for example “official reports” or “personal journal entry”. These French examples are from Cycle Two, Phase Three, which contains recipes.
Firstly, using the same text type multiple times helps students to get comfortable with the format of the readings over the course of the phase (about a week and a half), as they will read a different example of this text type each day. And, specifically, recipes carry a good deal of cultural information, and most people enjoy discussing and looking at food!
Further, the structure of the text type “recipe” lends itself well to beginners, since there are lists of ingredients and the subject matter is quite concrete and visual. The Intermediate, Advanced, and Challenge/Heritage readings contain more complex text, as seen below.
The header photo and callout images were selected specifically to support reading comprehension. They serve different purposes, and work together to support the reader as they navigate the text.
The header image is there to provide visual interest, inviting readers to get curious and want to learn/read more. It also provides an overview of the main topic and builds background knowledge. You can think of the header image as a “pre-reading” strategy, just in a visual format. It helps students focus their attention on the main topic and primes them to learn more.
First, I want my image to fill the whole top of the page, and I want it to be a close look at the most important topic in the reading. I want it big, bold, and splashy so kids can’t help but read…even if they are avowed reading-haters.
Especially if they are avowed reading-haters.
I like to use the Cali filter that Canva gives you with the educator/pro account. I’m pretty much obsessed with it. And by obsessed, I mean I use it on like 99.8% of the photos I ever use, for anything, ever.
And header images in particular really seem to look best if you change the opacity in Canva to about 80% (depending on the exact image, you might slide that up or down). It gives the image a more “matte” look and I find that it makes it look more “professional” like it came from a magazine.
Let’s look at the call-out images now.
The call-out images within the text serve a different purpose: to support comprehension in a light and convenient way, so that students do not have to break the flow of their reading to look in a glossary or down at the bottom of the page, and read a translation, and get out of the flow of reading in the language we want to teach them.
Canva pro/educator has a LOT of photos with a transparent background. These look super-professional as call-out images.
You can also use the background remover (with the educator/pro account) under “Effects” to remove the background from most any picture. Or use this site to remove backgrounds for free.
Even if this is all you ever try in the world of designing reading passages, your students will benefit greatly from the increased comprehension and engagement.