Visual templates for engaging environmental discussions

I recently read Dan Barber’s ELT Footprint blog about giving your lessons a sustainability twist. It inspired me to create some visual templates to stimulate environmental discussions in the classroom.

A visual template is a tool commonly used by graphic facilitators, such as Cara Holland or Emer O’Leary, to inspire workshop participants. It is essentially a technique which turns a plain flipchart or whiteboard into a visual prompt to guide and focus students’ attention. It uses simple iconography to represent topics and bold text to catch their eyes and imaginations. Put simply, it is far more exciting and inspiring than a boring old blank white space.

Take these templates on saving electricity or reducing plastic, for example. Students add their ideas using post-it notes, writing directly or by adding their own drawings. Prior to this activity, you could ask them to read or listen to some information on either topic.

In a face-to-face classroom, these templates can be pre-drawn and displayed around the room or passed between tables, carousel style. Students can then walk around or simply add their ideas when they have that template. The teacher can then facilitate discussions using the students’ ideas or students could use the ideas to produce some written work. The templates can be stored and re-used, or students could add their own drawings to them and the final piece be displayed on the wall.

In a digital classroom, the templates work well on a platform such as Jamboard, where students can add their own digital post-its, then discuss their ideas in a breakout room.

When using this visual template about Energy Sources, as a dynamic receptive skills comprehension task, you could ask learners to read or listen to some information, then ask them to put notes of what they learned in the relevant section. You could later ask them to add their views on the advantages and disavantages of each energy source using two different colours of post-it notes.

Visual templates are fabulous as they can be used (and re-used) for many topics. Have a look at my previous post for ways you could map out learners journeys, for example.

Do you use visuals to stimulate student creativity and communication? How could you use these to add a sustainability twist? I’d love to hear your ideas. Share them here or via twitter @E_Bryson.

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