In language arts class, my 5th grade students read A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park (2010). The book tells the story of Salva, one of the thousands of Sudanese “Lost Boys” who was eventually airlifted to the United States in the 1990s. But it also tells the fictional story of Nya, a girl who walks twice a day to a pond to retrieve water. This pond is located four hours away. After reading the story, the students had lots of questions about Sudan and the Lost Boys, providing me with the opportunity for a perfect research project with this group of 10 kids.
Gathering General Information
Our first step was to complete a KW chart by brainstorming what we already know about Sudan and things we want to know. Then, armed with an organizer, students researched some general background information about Sudan. In library class, we had already spent time learning about credible sources, focusing on website evaluation. For this project, I re-introduced the students to the WorldBook Online and Kids InfoBits (Gale) databases as well as the Sweetsearch search engine.
Narrowing a Topic
Armed with some solid background information about the history and geography of Sudan in particular, and more questions based on this information as well as the story, each student decided on a research topic, including The Water Shortage in Sudan, The Two Civil Wars in Sudan, and The Lost Boys of Sudan, and completed a simple organizer focusing on their chosen topic.
Creating an Infographic
Rather than producing a written research report, I challenged each student to create an infographic. We looked at several infographic exemplars, noting their purpose–to present information visually while raising awareness about an issue or generate interest in a topic.
- 10 Facts About Dr. Seuss Books
- The Top 10 Happiest Cities in the World
- Food Waste in Jacksonville (created by student)
- Cleaning the Seas One Catch at a Time
We also noted the different elements of a good infographic:
- Layout that flows
- Color schemes relevant to the topic
- Focus on graphics rather than text
- Graphics that represent the information
- Presentation of facts and data
Students used web-based Piktochart to create their infographics with most of them choosing one of the provided templates as a starting point. Having created My Life as a Reader infographics, students were already familiar with this tool.
Despite our review of purpose and design of infographics, several of my students still included lengthy paragraphs, finding it a challenge to cut the text down to its essentials and to identify a representative graphic. Clearly, creating infographics to present learning is not simply a regurgitation of information but involves the application of critical thinking skills.
While the software makes accessible a decent graphics library, most of my students imported Creative Commons-licensed maps, images, or clipart to include in their infographics. Students properly cited in MLA style their sources. Also, as part of our continuous discussion of creative ownership rights in both digital and print environments, students decided on and included a Creative Commons license on their final product.
The Civil Wars in Sudan by Jack H.
The Lost Boys of Sudan by Julia D.
The Water Shortage in South Sudan by Allie B.
The Recent History of Sudan by Abigail F.