In a previous blog post I scratched the surface of the big topic of visual learning in schools and the idea that students of all grades could appreciate having more visual elements in their instruction. At the end of it I promised to dive into some techniques teachers could use to include more visual elements in learning materials and classroom activities.

I also mentioned there are many ways to do this, so this post will be limited only on a few ideas — all related to the visual organization of lessons. Let’s dive in!

Visual techniques for organizing lessons and ideas

Visual techniques for organizing lessons and ideas

A low hanging fruit when it comes to including more visual elements in education is the organization of learning materials. Everyone in the education system needs to know what they have to teach and what they have to learn — basically, what they have to do in order to get to the end of the school year successfully. If all the learning materials teachers create are organized in a visual manner, things will be clearer for students and easier for teachers in the long-run.

While it doesn’t take much effort to include visual elements when organizing lessons and ideas, the results are positive. So here are a few ideas for teachers who want to meet the needs of visual learners.

  1. Formats or Layouts. Any teacher develops in time a lesson format, maybe starting with some preparatory light steps before getting to the meaty part of what has to be learned, or showing a glimpse of a cool result that can only be achieved after mastering the lesson before diving right into it. Depending on the year or other characteristics of the class, this format can suffer some variation and it is best to be adapted to the needs of students. If we consider the creation of online instructional materials, it’s even easier to keep the consistency of the entire course by using the same layout for each lesson.
  2. Concept maps. These diagrams visually illustrate the relationships between different concepts in a lesson and help students organize and represent knowledge of the studied subject. Concept maps are designed around a main idea — or concept — and then branch out to show how that concept can be broken down into specific topics. During the creation of a concept map students are encouraged to find correlations between what they already know and what is currently being taught, brainstorm and generate ideas, and also better remember the new concepts.
  3. Mind maps. A little bit different than concept maps, mind maps can get more personal, and maybe messier — it depends on how fast the mind works. A mind map is also based on a central idea and spreads out to connecting ones. Students can include not only words and phrases in it, but also pictures, doodles, drawings, and even links to other resources or videos if they work on it online.
  4. Color coding. The world is not just black or white. There are many grays in this universe, and most of them are colorful. Color coding helps visual learners to better organize what they learn. If the information is organized, they’ll be more successful at accessing it fast when they need it. For example, if you’re teaching young students how to read, you can come up with a color coding system for words. Mark nouns with a color, verbs with another, adjectives with another, and so on. Once students will associate the colors with the parts of speech, they’ll get better and better at identifying and using them correctly.
  5. Different font styles and sizes. Regular, bold, italic or underlined. Serif or sans serif. Thin, medium or thick. Condensed or round-lettered. You can’t really complain of not having enough options when it comes to using fonts. No matter if you create a learning material that will become a hand-out in the classroom or one that will forever live online in the school LMS, you can use different font styles and sizes to create order and consistency in your lessons. Check out this blog for more resources and ideas on how to play with fonts.
  6. Headings and subheadings. Similar to font styles and sizes, the use of headings and subheadings help with the information organization of learning materials. Whatever styles you choose, just remember to be consistent with their use.
  7. Bullet point lists. These are sadly almost a synonym to boring slide presentations, but rest assured, there is Life After Death by PowerPoint. Humor aside — and overuse aside — bullet points do help students understand the organization of learning materials, identify the main aspects of a lesson or concepts, and better remember what they learn during revision time.
  8. Captions for images. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but a few well chosen descriptive words in the caption can double its worth. One image can be as powerful as an entire chapter or a big part of a new concept students have to learn. They won’t remember each and every word they have to read, but if an important image sticks in their memory they could more easily recall what the said chapter was about.

Have you tried these visual techniques? Did they work as well as you expected? What else would you add to this list? Many questions, waiting for your answers. Do share them in the comments section below!

Author: Livia M

Livia is one of the online voices of NEO by CYPHER LEARNING. She writes about education technology for K-12 and higher ed, gamification, BYOD, as well as other ed-tech subjects.