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design a lesson
June 8, 2010 7:40 PM   Subscribe

DesignFilter-ish: I'm working on a project involving formatting lesson plans, activities, and readings for a secondary school level. What are some things I should be paying attention to?

I basically want to make sure that these lesson plans and materials are clear and easy to read (visually), are attractive and appealing, and formatted consistently and uniformly.

The materials will eventually be available online for d/l and printing.

What I'd like are some suggestions on :
- suitable typefaces (serif? non-serif?) I'm not liking Times New Roman very much... kind of cramped and narrow.
- justifying: should I left justify, or just justify?
- header, subheader etc, <-- how should I differentiate them? Different font sizes? Bold/italics? Use some kind of graphic?
- for powerpoints: what are some of the things that make you feel a ppt is poorly made/unclear?

and in general anything you think would make a printed document more visually appealing to a secondary school student. I know that in the end, it's really the content that matters, but I think that the way it's presented is important too.

oh, and btw, the pictures for the lessons themselves are already provided -- it's just my job to make everything uniform and pretty.

Thanks!
posted by joyeuxamelie to Education (2 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
(On preview: Ooof, this is long. Sorry. But I hope it's helpful.)

I think you are absolutely right that appearance matters to secondary school students! This is just anecdata, but my students are willing to read a primary source if I have retyped it in 11 pt. Tahoma. They will immediately decide it's "too hard" if I give them a copy from an older book with a 9 pt serif that has two super-close columns and little white space. Another story: an English teacher friend had a major project that introduced students to literature criticism. Every year, the kids complained about it... until the year she reformatted the project instructions from a plain Word document to a newsletter format with pictures of the book covers thrown in. Suddenly the students were super-excited about it.

Anyways, on to your question.

- My favorite font for the last few years has been Tahoma. I originally started using it because the state end-of-course exams used it, so I figured it would help students feel less anxiety during the exams. The state apparently selected it because the screen and print versions are much more similar than the screen and print versions of other fonts. So this could be useful to you for your purposes.

- I usually just left justify, especially for reading passages, but I generally don't use columns.

- If your lesson plans and materials have a common structure, then graphics can be very helpful in orienting teachers and students to these sections. (introduction, reading, discussion, activity, writing response, etc.) Unless you can have consistent headings (though not all have to be used in each lesson), I wouldn't try to find/make graphics for each one. Alternatively, you could use a scholar's margin of 1/4 or 1/3 the page and place the headings in that space. This will also create user-friendly white space and room for teachers/students to make notes.

Things my students tell me they prefer in PowerPoints:
- very clear structure so they know how to organize their notes
- large font (I started with large fonts when I just had a TV at the front of the room, but even when I got an LCD projector, my students preferred large fonts, as in 44 pt. This also keeps a presenter from writing complete sentences.)
- consistent bullet scheme within a presentation for points and subpoints, with a new level of info differentiated by indentation, a different bullet shape and a different bullet color than the higher level (like a green square for a main point and pink circles for subpoints)
- darker backgrounds with lighter fonts, otherwise it feels too bright to them in a darkened room (most school LCD projectors are not the super-awesome kind that are easy to read with the lights on)

If you are writing the lesson plans so that the teacher has the plan itself and then makes copies of stuff for students, a good numbering system is really helpful. Like giving the lesson plan a number and then each supporting document gets that number plus a letter. So then when teachers have printed everything out and are searching through the piles of stuff on their desks, they know that reading 10-A and activity sheet 10-B go with lesson plan 10 without having to read everything all over again. Not that I have piles of stuff on my desk...
posted by scarnato at 8:26 PM on June 8, 2010


woah~ thank you very much! the length of your answer is fine~~ it's all great information!

Thank you!!!
posted by joyeuxamelie at 8:25 AM on June 9, 2010


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