Mr. Kamrowski

"Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children." –Sitting Bull

Reflection: The Power of Visuals

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The AP European History test was this past Friday and my students and I had been preparing for it all week.  We had taken practice tests, discussed test strategies, and highlighted key aspects of writing a solid answer to a document based and free response question.  If you asked my students, however, none of these activities were as useful, or as fun as ,”draw, talk, or act.”

Draw, talk, or act is a review game I created (I’m sure others have too) as a spin off of charades, cranium, and other party type games.  Students divide into teams, select an order, come to the front of the class where I spin a digital wheel (Made with random name picker) that selects if they will draw, talk, or act a concept for their teammates to guess. I gave each team a different concept and two minutes to guess the concept.  The students loved the game and thought it was very helpful.  They especially liked the drawing aspect.   And that fact got me thinking about some information I had read concerning the use of visual activities to reinforce concepts.

Over the summer I had read How to Teach So Students Remember.  The author states that drawing is a great activity to help students recode information they have learned for better recall.  More recently, I have read Matt Miller’s Ditch that Textbook where he points out the benefits of visuals by citing the dual coding theory.  Upon reflection, here are four simple things, related to the power of visuals, I did that seemed to be effective in my class this year.

1.  Modeled Sketchnoting (Sort Of)

This is my creation using the App Inklfow, perhaps my favorite app to draw with.  This is a rough draft.  I recreated these notes on my whiteboard as I gave a brief lecture.


2.  Visual Timelines

This was another creation of mine using the App Inkflow.  I presented this to students after asking them to make their own visual timeline of the significant events of the English Civil War.

English Civl War to Constitutional Monarch

3.  Comic Summaries

This is a student creation.  I uploaded a comic template to Schoology, had them download it and create their own comics in Notability about a reading they recently had completed.  This was early in the year and they struggled with the concept.  Nonetheless, they found the association of visuals helpful and while a lot of their comics didn’t seem to make sense to me or were incomplete, they could explain them in detail.  This showed me they did understand the reading and the visuals made sense to them, even if I did not completely understand them.

comics template (dragged)

4.  Video Summaries

This is a student created video done for an end of the semester extra-credit project.  Students used Explain Everything and were told to explain an event, concept, or individual from the past semester we had studied.  These videos were uploaded to Schoology and archived for students to reference as review material.

Question:  How have you incorporated visuals in your lessons?  What are some new methods of incorporating visuals that you are pondering?  You can leave a comment below.


Author: Rob Kamrowski

My name is Rob Kamrowski and I have been a high school social study teacher of some years. Recently, I have accepted a position as an 8th grade American History teacher. I have taught a range of subjects from American History to Personal Finance to AP European History. I earned my Bachelor Degree in 2003, my Masters Degree in 2008, and strive to earn the respect of my students, colleagues and family every day of every year

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