How can infographics help learners understand the rules of English? Teacher Zdenek Rotrekl, who won the latest British Council Teaching English blog award, tells us why visually appealing images are so popular with learners of English.
Gamification: playing and learning at the same time
When I started my blog in autumn 2013, my original aim was to publish games for students to practise their grammar. I think that students should practise their English at home, and as they love playing computer games, I wanted to create English language games that would give them a chance to play and learn at the same time.
I started to produce the graphics only later and by chance. I created the first mind map for irregular verbs and it became incredibly popular so I started producing mind maps with each of my posts. Having used all my creations in a real classroom, I soon realised that the mind maps did not work for everyone and that they were not the best option for some of the grammar points I needed to explain. So I started creating visually appealing explanations.
The difference between mind maps and infographics
We need to distinguish between mind maps and infographics – or visually appealing explanations as I call them. Mind maps are those 'octopuses' where you connect ideas logically; infographics on the other hand contain the information in a way that looks nice.
Mind maps are great for organising your thoughts. The word 'your' in 'your thoughts' is extremely important. If you give your mind map to someone else, they will probably have a hard time trying to understand it. However, if you create your own mind map, it will help you learn what you need. As long as you are aware of this, mind maps are ideal as worksheets for students who then organise their thoughts into them, for example when creating a mind map of a story.
The visual appeal of infographics
Infographics on the other hand display information in a visually appealing way. By creating these, I do not come up with any original concepts, I only put the old information into a new, more attractive package.
I have produced about 60 infographics and by putting information into colourful boxes, I try to tempt students into opening the 'package' and consuming the grammar point inside.
Using infographics in the classroom
It's best to use infographics with interactive whiteboards. You can display them on the board and explain everything.
It's a good idea to print explanations too. Colourful handouts are always really popular and students can consult them whenever they feel like it.
Last but not least, infographics can provide a motivating way to set homework. Students can see the grammar explanation and then play a related language game to test their understanding of the grammar.
Read Zdenek’s winning post on modal verbs in present and past tenses.