The paperwork that we hand out on the first day of school (or back to school night) is our first impression – our first chance to make an impact on students and parents. After looking back over my traditional syllabus and asking for feedback from my teacher friends, I realized that I wasn’t making a syllabus to make an impression or to provide necessary information, but instead I was talking at a level above my student’s understanding and just CYAing. That’s “covering your ass”. Some thinking (and Pinteresting with a cancelled and then delayed flight home from my Kentucky conference) had me considering an overhaul of my syllabus with a goal of a visual syllabus that works for my students. Here are a few reasons why you should be using a visual syllabus.
Reason #1: Create a Simple Picture
—-> Many of us have faced the task of deciphering a graduate level syllabus and still remain confused. Now think about this type of syllabus with a middle or high school student. We WANT them to understand the rules, consequences, content, and procedures of our room so why do we make it so darn hard for them to understand with an overly complicated syllabus? To quote one of my favorite children’s books, “Simple pictures are the best!” – a visual syllabus easily showcases the most important information for your class.
Reason #2: Save the Trees
—-> One of the most challenging aspects of designing a visual syllabus is how to streamline your current 5 page syllabus with charts and a sign/return page down to 1-2 pages. But hey! It’s totally eco-friendly AND you start to determine what was actually necessary for students to have within a syllabus. For instance, my former syllabi listed the state standards. What high school student is going to read that information and want to keep it handy? NONE. Which means it doesn’t end up in the recycling or (gasp) recycling bin!
Reason #3: Accountability
—-> A large part of teaching ninth grade students (particularly first semester) is helping them to understand how they essentially have gone from the pampers to pullups. It’s time to fly baby birds and that means that you have all of the information you need to make informed decisions in class. A visual syllabus puts your contact information in a prominent spot and is easily accessible for students – this leads back to accountability on the part of students.
Reason #4: It’s Just So Pretty!
—-> Call it vain, but I want to make and look at pretty things. I can’t even wait to show you my full classroom reveal (here’s a sneak peek if you want a preview) – my students walk into a colorful and visual stimulating classroom with strategically placed posters, graphics, and desk groupings. And then I hand them a boring 5 page syllabus? A visual syllabus is more likely to stick around in a binder versus a random 5 page stapled document.
A glimpse of my former syllabi page on late policies….
A glimpse of my new visual syllabi….
Need some help with finding a visual syllabus? I do have an entire Pinterest board devoted to “syllabi” with some links to some great (and cheap) visual syllabi on Teachers Pay Teachers (my template came from this source). Don’t want to buy anything? No biggie! Use some colorful textboxes and fonts in Word or use free programs like PicMonkey, Piktochart, and Canva to make a truly individualized syllabus – just remember “Simple Pictures”!
Here are a few other examples (click on the pictures for the direct source and always pin from the direct source please!):
Do you use a visual syllabus? Any tips, tricks, or other info? Share in the comments below!