In a world where simply reading the news requires significant statistical and visual literacy, infographics have become prolific in magazines and news sites—where they’re used to explain everything frompolitical projections to public health to Hawaiian volcanic eruptions.
By now, almost everyone has come across the infographic. In short, they’re visual representations of complex information and they typically meld some combination of charts, graphs, images, words and numbers—often in clever and striking ways that are capable of telling stories just as well as blocks of text, and often in less time.
Today’s kids are hardly strangers to the form. Sports publications, for example, often include statistical analyses comparing stars like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, or exploring the way that famous soccer players stack up against each other in terms of goals, conversion rates, and passes.
Contemporary nonfiction for young people plays a crucial role in the reading and writing lives of K–12 students. It is a rich and compelling genre that supports students’ development as critically, visually, and informationally literate 21st-century thinkers and creators. The purpose of this position statement is to propose a paradigm shift for teaching and learning with nonfiction literature in K–12 education.
Unlike many textbooks and materials written for online or print-based school curriculum, nonfiction literature for young people does more than communicate information (Moss, 2003; Sanders, 2018). Nonfiction literature contextualizes primary source evidence, offers multiple perspectives on current and historic events, and shares new scientific discoveries. Contemporary nonfiction addresses historical silences, explores historic and contemporary events rooted in racism, oppression, and violence, and highlights courageous trailblazers and organized groups working toward societal transformation and liberation. It presents cutting-edge research, offering readers not just settled information, but access to emerging understandings at the vanguard of scientific knowledge and exploration (Aronson, 2011; Giblin, 2000; Isaacs, 2011).
Nonfiction empowers young people in the face of current and emerging challenges locally and globally, such as racial, cultural, social, and economic injustice, censorship and disinformation, and the climate crisis. In the urgency of this moment, nonfiction for young people has never been more vibrant or vital.
If students are allowed to have their phones at your school, you can set parameters to help them focus on their work.
Who doesn’t get distracted by an Instagram feed, Twitter posts, and TikToks? Those applications are designed to keep people engaged with them. As the generation of students we teach have become more technology oriented, I think they’ve also become more distracted by it.
Now, we don’t throw our hands up and say, “We can’t win!” with this battle of teenagers occupied with Snapchat while they’re supposed to be learning content. Instead, we can rethink our instruction and how our classroom community functions. Let’s learn who our students are in order to support their learning.
Getting to know our students at the beginning of the year isn’t a one-and-done thing. Consider the following four suggestions to boost student engagement levels in our classrooms when they all have phones.