Information is Beautiful

Last Christmas my Aunt and Uncle sent me a great christmas present, the book “Information is Beautiful”; not a book I would have naturally picked up in Waterstones, but proved to be a favourite in the whole family with a range of whimsical and horrifying infographics.  I am probably some way between a visual, intra-personal and literary learner thus info graphics appeal to me.

In my reading I was not convinced by Megan Jaeerman’s graphics which seemed just like glorified leaflets (nice but not ground breaking) and the Motion Graphics frankly gave me motion sickness.  My feeling is that infographics should be zen (like the presentations) and Hans Rosling is zen in temple loads – the infographic is only a support for the thinking and the presentation.  It is true that as they say at Many Eyes the decisions you make over the use of infographics are

as much an art as a science

It wasn’t until I looked at the periodic table that I realised that I have been using so many “info-graphics” since long before they were even called that.  I am not claiming to have invented any of these, but I know that this sort of information has always appealed to my visual sense.

Word Iceberg

When looking at denotation and connotation I have always used the Iceberg as a metaphor for this.  The idea that it is the word that we see above the surface, but there is so much of the meaning that is below the surface.  So I draw something like this on the board:Iceburg

The students are then asked to consider words (often taken from texts) to consider the connotations implied by the word:paint

This can be done as a smart board document, but I have yet to find a way to do this online as perhaps a homework task.

The Gingerbread TOTAL Character

This is another literature graphic based on looking at the character visually.  It is also a fantastic reason to eat gingerbread men in class.  In discussing character I use the acronym TOTAL character, this stands for:

What They say to others; Others say about them; Thoughts; Actions and Looks.  Students are then asked to get information from the text that tells us about them.  Quotes are then used to create a gingerbread poster (with speech bubbles and thought bubbles) Looks inside the head, actions in the body and the rest in bubbles as appropriate.  Voila another info graphic (but not yet very technical)

gingerbread man

Relationship Wheel


The relationship wheel is another character device considering the relationships of one character with others in the text.  Take Hamlet as an example.  If this were the character wheel of Hamlet, I would put the names of other characters in the outer rim: Ophelia, Gertrude, Claudius, Polonius, Horatio, Laertes, Fortinbras and so on.  Inside the spokes words can then be put to describe Hamlet’s relationship with that character; For Claudius: vengeance, hatred, anger, untrusting etc; For Ophelia: love, frustration, confusion, etc.


Tension Graph

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 20.09.54This is a plot graphing device based on the tension and climaxes in the play students would be given a blank graph like this one plotting tension at key moments.  This can also be done for romance graphing and relationship graphing.

So all that I need now to bring my old methods into the 21st century is for some clever techie to take these ideas and make them interactive.  Then to put them out there on the English teachers’ resource network and jobs a good ‘en!

Any offers?


One comment to “Information is Beautiful”
One comment to “Information is Beautiful”
  1. Think you could easily do that in a Google Spreadsheet. Or use that image as a background in a Google Drawing and then have students plot and draw lines over top of it.

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