Children are growing up in an increasingly visual world, yet many still struggle to convey ideas and understanding in a comprehensive way. Design is everywhere and more than ever, students need to understand the principles of design to communicate effectively.

As the K-5 EdTech Coach, I noticed there was a lack of design thinking happening across all grade levels. Thanks to Keri-Lee Beasley’s Design Secrets Revealed eBook I was able to support upper primary teachers in their quest to address these design challenges in G3-G5. But I wondered if G3 was too late to be introducing the four main principles of Contrast, Alignment, Repetition and Proximity (C.A.R.P)? Children were creating and designing posters and eBooks right from Kindergarten. But are the C.A.R.P terms too advanced and complex for early readers? I immediately thought of young children’s fascination with dinosaurs, and recalled my younger brother (nearly 30 years ago) using their latin names like ‘Dilophosaurus’ before he could properly read. I figured, if young children can learn long complicated dinosaur names, the only thing stopping young children from learning the C.A.R.P principles was us, their teachers.


Below is a copy of my Final UbD Project

Carp Jr:  Redifining Design Principles for KG-G2

Since this unit is designed for young children in KG-G2, I decided to use a variety of devices and tools to teach these concepts. The primary platform I used to design and deliver the lessons was Google Slides, because it allowed me to access Creative Commons Attribute Free images, and the collaborative feature allowed me to share the lessons easily with staff in the school, and beyond. Teachers who choose to use these resources can also make copies and modify them for their class.

Public Domain Logo: CC image from Wikipedia


What were your goals for your lesson/project?

To introduce the CARP design principles with students and create a collaborative eBook with students explaining the CARP principles for others to use. Below are examples of the 4 posters I created using Google Slides.

What tools did you use? Why did you choose these tools for this task?

I used Google Slides to share the presentations and activities across classes. I also used Google Docs to collaborate, plan and reflect on week-by-week activities. Below is an example of the collaborative planning document I used with the classroom teachers:

For planning, we also used Keri-Lee Beasley’s “Design Secrets Revealed” ebook to support and plan for the lessons, as well as several other websites & resources outlined in my UbD Unit Outline.

For the summative task, students had the opportunity to use the My Story or Chatterpix app to showcase their understanding of CARP. They created a visual text to be shared on the ePortfolio platform, SeeSaw.

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How did you go about introducing your lesson/project?

I first needed to propose this project to a teacher who would be willing to collaborate on it. In my role as EdTech Coach, I am responsible for planning with teachers on ways to integrate EdTech in the classroom. Two grade 1 teachers were happy to bring these new concepts (CARP) into their classroom as students were just beginning a unit on visual literacy.

How did the students react? 

Students were very engaged in the lessons as they were a mix of inquiry and hands-on practice. Many of the students are developing into confident readers so they enjoyed learning new vocabulary. Students were even able to apply their learning in a broader context. According to the classroom teacher, words like ‘Alignment’ were being used to describe how work books were organised; During math lessons when children were ‘aligning’ their work and answers. One student had commented that they didn’t know there were “real words for the way things looked”.

Outcome? Did you meet your goals?

While the lessons took longer than expected, the ultimate goal of exposing students to the CARP principles was met. As my final video (below) shows, several of the students adopted the terminology and were able to explain their visual texts using the language of Design Principles. Unfortunately, due to time constraints and extenuating circumstances, we were unable to create the culminating eBook. Instead, students produced a visual text using one of the iPad apps: Chatterpix, My Story or PicCollage. They implemented as many CARP principles as they could remember and then explained them orally.

Evidence of learning

My final video best documents the learning achieved by students over the course of the 6 week unit:

Here is a reflection from one of the G1 teachers:

I’ve been surprised that the students were able to grasp the principles.  This came from some trial and error with simplifying and scaffolding activities that would give them practice with identifying first and then replicating the different principles.  We worked mostly with Contrast and Alignment, not only because they’re the first, but also because they were a little more concrete for the students. Also, having posters with examples in the classroom to refer to often reminds them of the principles in different contexts/disciplines.

I’ll definitely teach and use CARP principles with my classes in the future. It really helps them to have experience seeing the difference between good design and poor design, even at this young age. It motivates and empowers them to improve the design in their own work!” ~ H.M Grade 1 Class Teacher

What would you do differently next time? What did you learn? 

Overall this experience was really successful and the teachers and students got a lot out of it. However, in future I would prefer to run this with my own classroom. As the EdTech Coach, there is only so much I can do between lessons, and often there were extenuating circumstances that arose and caused lesson time to be cut short or rescheduled. While the teachers I collaborated with were very accommodating and flexible, if we were unable to finish the lesson it was challenging to pick up where we last left off because too much time had passed. I think this unit is best adopted by a classroom teacher in KG-G2, as they can tweak the resources to suit their class needs, and also they can plan out and deliver the lessons in a more timely manner. Also, there were three teachers working with me, and each teacher had a slightly different approach to embedding the CARP design principles in their classroom routines. The more successful classes had a clear display board that was regularly referenced to when teachers were looking at other visual texts, or any designs where these 4 principles could be applied.


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I also learned the importance of flexibility and lesson ‘tweaking’, since ultimately we were unable to reach our goal of publishing a CARP Jr Design Principles eBook by week 6. However this is still something we hope to do in May/June. Instead, students had the opportunity to publish a visual text that showcased some or all of the CARP principles, and the teachers were satisfied with this as a reflection of student understanding. I do think a classroom teacher has the benefit of time to ensure the outcome of an eBook. Next year when I am back in grade 5 as classroom teacher at UWCSEA, I look forward to implementing a similar unit with my own students.

How do you plan to share this with your colleagues?

Everything I created has been shared through Google Drive and is stored in this folder. These resources are free for teacher use around the globe. I will embed these resources on a separate tab in my COETAIL blog. I will also promote this unit and the resources through the collaborative team meetings I attend each week, and through #coetailchat, #edtechchat, #1stchat on Twitter.

What was your greatest learning in this course?

The learning that was most influential for me during Course 5 was how concepts from the other courses intersected in this culminating final project. Creating the Carp Jr. unit on design also allowed me to rethink and redefine tasks using digital tools such as MyStory.

My growing PLN has been another great source of learning for me, and I am in awe of the numerous amazing projects and initiatives taking place by Coetail students and graduates. I also learnt that a paradigm shift is needed in education, and no one educator can make the shift happen on their own. We need to bond together as like-minded educators and work to change pedagogy. I look forward to continuing these relationships through Twitter and G+ communities after Coetail ends.

Did this implementation meet the definition of Redefinition?

This is my favourite visual of the SAMR model, created by Sylvia Duckworth:


Redefinition is defined as allowing “for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable”. While many of the concepts learned throughout this CARP Jr unit were ‘analogue’, students did create a summative Visual Text about CARP principles using a digital tool (one of the apps on the iPad). The analogue tasks were also paired with a digital eBook (Keri-Lee Beasley) and the collaborative planning documents and Google Slides. This is an example of redefinition because students combined media from a variety of sources, such as drawings, photos and digital images, to create a final visual text that exhibited elements of CARP. The camera allowed them to document their ‘analogue’ work in a digital format, which is inconceivable without iPad or digital device. The iPad also allowed them to add their own narration to explain their thinking(My Story & Chatterpix).

Final Thoughts about the Final Project

Overall the experience of delivering this unit was very positive and full of challenges. I developed stronger relationships with the G1 teachers I worked with, and was able to tweak my resources as I went so that they could be more accessible and practical for other teachers to use.

Recently I had the privilege of attending and facilitating a cohort of teachers at Europe’s first Learning 2.0 Milan. There were so many important messages to take away but perhaps the one that resonates most with me and this final project is the importance of Failure in the learning journey. Jeff Utecht shared this during his final presentation: “FAIL = First Attempt In Learning”.

Photo Credit: Me. Jeff Utecht @Learning2 Europe


At the start of this unit, I wasn’t sure if I would be successful implementing a six-week long Design Principles unit with 5-7 year olds. However, I realise I needed to implement this unit (through trial & error) to really understand how it can best be used in the classroom. The video shows that students learned and applied these concepts at an age-appropriate level, and with these tools they will be better prepared to tackle design in upper grades as well. I hope those who choose to use this unit in their own classroom can benefit from my experience, and my mistakes.

All Resources for CARP JR Design Unit can be found below:


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Silence isn’t Golden.

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Speak Out

Why do we see digital learning spaces any differently than physical? What is it about social media platforms like Twitter and Google+ that cause us to hesitate and resist sharing ideas, providing feedback and engaging in professional discussions? When will we begin to see online communities as extensions of our own face-to-face PLN? How can educators promote and model a positive digital footprint for our students unless we are also engaging in online communities?

Teachers…it’s time to break the silence.

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I’ve come to the end of Coetail Course 5, and looking back at where I started over a year ago, I’m amazed at how my professional learning network (PLN) has grown exponentially.

My journey to building my online PLN began 3 years ago when I took the plunge and finally joined Twitter. I detailed my experience with this in one of my first Coetail posts Twitter & Blogging: Happily Married:

Twitter & Blogging have exponentially expanded my PLN and literally changed my life and the way I teach. Now that this dynamic is obvious to me, the real challenge is sharing this knowledge with other educators and, more importantly, students. Returning to the idea of Prosumers (Reach p.2-6), it’s essential that we model and facilitate an atmosphere of connectivism both in schools and in our classrooms.  I really needed to dive into blogging myself to understand the benefits professionally before I could get my students on board with the idea. As I mentioned earlier, my previous school had a blogging culture, but only a small percent truly understood the opportunities blogs provided. For many teachers, blogs were considered a useful platform for documenting learning, creating a bank of resources and connecting within the classroom, but the real magic happened once teachers took risks left themselves vulnerable for the world to get a peek into their classroom.

Tweetship & Tweetmance

Since 2012, Twitter has been my main platform for networking with likeminded educators and collaborating on ideas to try in the classroom. It’s also been a hub for developing strong professional frienships, what I would deem Tweetships or Tweetmance. I am constantly in awe and inspired by other educators, and these simple, yet frequent connections to schools outside my own keep me motivated, especially during the long winter months when enthusiasm can wane. My main tweetships have been formed through #edtechchat#pypchat, and #edtech.

Since I joined Coetail and #coetailchat, I’ve further broadened my PLN, and found other useful hashtag groups to follow on Twitter such as #ecechat, #1stchat, and #kinderchat. Fellow Coetailer @ChezVivian and I have frequently connected during my Coetail journey over topics and activities we post in #makered and #EdTech. I am so grateful to her for keeping me inspired during my new role as EdTech coach.

@MrsKittoSwitzer (another Coetailer), @paulabaxter67@jackiefrens and @Shei_Asc are former colleagues whom I haven’t worked with for anywhere from 2 to 6 years, yet we continue to collaborate and share professional resources via Twitter. It’s been an excellent way to continue learning and growing together. Below you can see some of the many discussions we’ve participated in using various hashtag communities:

I was lucky to already have found a strong foundation PLN through my Apple Distinguished Educator network, and community of International School colleagues, which then expanded outwards to the 500+ Tweeters I share and collaborate with. As mentioned in my first Coetail post, many of these connections have moved beyond a public digital space to private messaging and emailing, to connect classrooms and share resources. I had mentioned in this post that Shannon O’Dwyer is a Twitter ‘colleague’ I have never met in person, but whom I connect with frequently to share articles and activity ideas. Some may deem this a full on professional #Tweetmance!

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Beyond Classroom Walls

Twitter is also an inspirational space where I’ve discovered and participated in several global projects such as #GlobalEdTed and #Ifyoulearnedhere. It was through Twitter that I found out about these fantastic collaborative projects and expanded my professional learning network.

Global Collaborative Project 1: #ifyoulearnedhere

I detailed my experience in the Global eBook Project “If You Learned Here” in one of my previous COETAIL posts Bridging Global Classrooms.  This project allowed teachers and students to connect globally on various platforms including FlipGrid, where we shared our introductory videos, Padlet, where schools shared about their school environment, the country they lived in, or their daily schedules.

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Again, Twitter was the main platform I used to network and connect with other educators participating in this project. Below are some of the Tweets I shared with other participants, using the #ifyoulearnedhere hashtag:


Global Collaborative Project 2: #GlobalEdTed

Another way I’ve built my PLN and connected globally since beginning my COETAIL journey was joining the Traveling Teddybear Project, hosted by former Coetailer Pana AsavavatanaIt’s been a huge success at our school and we’ve engaged with other classrooms through Twitter, Skype and the Traveling Teddy Blog.

These 3 posts can be read on Freddy’s Blog:

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Students Skyped with The Phoenix School, who are located in Massachusetts USA, and hosted Freddy before he arrived in Switzerland. They had lots of questions for each other, and students shared information about their schools, daily routines and favourite memories with Freddy the Teddy.

My Google+ Community

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Through my G+ profile, I’ve attempted to engage with various Google+ communities. Initially I found the response rate slower than on Twitter. Also, there seemed to be less participation as these communities are restricted to Google accounts. However, it’s in this space where I first connected with Phillip Cowell, when I joined the Elementary and Primary School EdTech G+ Community. I posted this question:

How can we balance Play-based learning and tech? What should tech look like in Early Years (3-6 year olds)? (link to G+ post).

This discussion led to me learning about his fabulous Easy Blogger Jr app that I later used in my role as EdTech Coach in EY-G1.

Here is a link to another discussions I posted a couple months later, when I was preparing for my new role. I was trying to find out how to start an Action Research project in the Early Years. There was some great back-and-forth discussion Claudia Lee, who shared her experience and documents with me. @Phillip_Cowell and I continue to engage in dialogue sharing posts about #easybloggerjr, as it was one of the platforms I conducted an informal action research on. I detailed my initial perspectives on a professional blog I created for our school Tech in Early Years.

Once I started my new role, I decided to share my progress with the same Google+ Community. I used Animoto to create a video documenting some of the ways I’d started integrating iPads in Early Years. It generated some discussion with another member, Reuben Bathgateand I was beginning to see the advantage of participating in a network that allowed us to continue discussions beyond 140 characters.

Since Coetail Course 5 started, I’ve made more of an effort to reconnect with the G+ Community and have shared in some discussions in the Tech Integrator’s corner. One discussion posted by Jackie Heinzelmann was about how to manage ‘off-task’ students who tend to check other platforms instead of doing work (see chat here) :

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Martha Thornburgh also recently posted a question in the group Instructional Technology Integrators & Coaches that has generated a lot discussion around the implementation of Digital Citizenship in schools. My response is below.

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Apple Distinguished Educators: #ade2015

I am fortunate to be part of a wide network of EdTech-focused educators through the Apple Distinguished Educators Programme. It’s through this community, that I began to collaborate more with @terSonya whom I only met for the first time last March 2015, at the Learning 2.0 conference. We then found out she would also be at the ADE conference in Amsterdam and following our second face-to-face collaboration, we continued to meet and discuss via twitter both publicly and through direct messaging. Since we both have the same role as EdTech Coaches (she at MIS, Germany), we found ourselves having loads to share and I’ve since been promoting her new iBooks on EdTech with staff at my school. Below you can see a snapshot of a typical exchange where we pose a question or share resources with each other and fellow ADEs in our region. The discussion about pixel coding was quite long and can be read in more detail here.

Full Circle with COETAIL

Lastly, the #Coetail and #coetailchat communities continues to be a place where I am introduced to more and more like-minded teachers who I can follow on Twitter and build my PLN. Recently I participated in a Blogging Twitter chat at #March2c . The questions were provocative and generated a lot of discussion that left all of us feeling like we had a lot more to think about and research as we push blogging in our schools and classrooms.

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Here is a storify of our discussion:

Some of the best exchanges I’ve had since starting my Coetail journey have been the back and forth exchanges through the comments section of our Coetail blogs. I recently added a post from my Eduro Coaching Course, “Show What You Don’t Know”, and was excited to make a connection with another coach. Below you can see another example of the many back and forth exchanges from a previous post, Coding: A Blast from the Past :

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However we choose to break the silence ~ be it on Coetail blogs, Twitter or Google+ communities ~ we need to be open to maintaining these connections over time. Thanks to Coetail, my PLN has expanded across all three platforms and I’ve gained confidence to share my perspectives and experiences through more than just 140 characters. Just like our students, we need to think beyond the walls of our own schools, and be open to connecting globally with each other.

Transforming “Screen Time” with MakeyMakeys


As an EdTech Coach, I’ve been questioning the quality of screentime happening in many classrooms and schools. For the past few years it’s seemed that more and more schools continue to purchase devices, without properly thinking about how it should be used to enhance not replace teaching. While I still preach and model how tech can enhance learning for students, I’m wondering how much longer laptops and iPads will simply act as substitutes for teaching and learning.

Some anti-tech colleagues were recently discussing the ‘harmful’ effects of computers on learning, referencing this article by the BBC:

[Sean Coughlan discusses findings from an OECD report]:

The [OECD] report says:

  • Students who use computers very frequently at school get worse results
  • Students who use computers moderately at school, such as once or twice a week, have “somewhat better learning outcomes” than students who use computers rarely
  • The results show “no appreciable improvements” in reading, mathematics or science in the countries that had invested heavily in information technology
  • High achieving school systems such as South Korea and Shanghai in China have lower levels of computer use in school
  • Singapore, with only a moderate use of technology in school, is top for digital skills

“One of the most disappointing findings of the report is that the socio-economic divide between students is not narrowed by technology, perhaps even amplified,” said Mr Schleicher.

Articles and studies like these are only further evidence of the misuses of technology in schools. They will further hinder an overall change in mindset about the importance of embedding effective and purposeful practices that promote digital citizenship in the classroom.

What do kids do with technology
CC Image by: Bill Ferriter on Flickr “Technology is a Tool”


For this reason, I am thrilled that new educational products are coming out to help bridge screentime with core subjects. MakeyMakey is one fantastic example of enhancing screen-based coding and programming on Scratch to related outcomes in science and math. These ‘invention kits’ also reinforce creativity, problem-solving and collaboration skills as students work together to create. I decided to introduce these ‘invention kits’ in G1-G5 to see the potential in classrooms.

I first used MakeyMakeys over the summer at the STEM Playground during the Apple Distinguished Educator‘s Institute in Netherlands. There were a ton of other amazing toys to play with and exlore, but I immediately saw a multitude of connections for MakeyMakeys with Science, Tech, Music, Math. I created this video below to showcase some of the ‘newer’ tech products on the market that allow students to engage with hands-on real-world programming, for all ages:

At first glance, the MakeyMakey Keboard looks intimidating. But the set up and instructions at their website are so straight forward that it was no problem to figure out on my own.

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Screenshot from “How To MakeyMakey” website


MaKey MaKey Kit Photo on Grey, Closeup on MaKey MaKey
CC Image by: jayahimsa Flickr


Grade 1 Unit of Inquiry: Investigating Light Energy

I knew that Grade 1s would really enjoy the MakeyMakeys but the purpose of using them in class was to initiate dialogue about how electricity flows.  For this reason, I set up certain ‘provocation’ stations with the MakeyMakeys, with the alligator clips, bananas, Play-Doh, and Tin foil already in place.

Students inquired into how to make it work (I didn’t tell them about the ‘Earth’ Tinfoil bracelets at first) and they were excited when they did manage to make sound come out of their computers, or make the game work. At some point I did need to indicate the importance of holding onto the ‘Earth’ tinfoil bracelet for the circuit to be complete, and for the game to work.

Some of the questions that came up were: Where does the energy go? How does it travel? Why does the Banana Keyboard only work with the Tinfoil bracelet? The video below shows their thinking as they investigated electricity through the MakeyMakey & online games:

Grades 3-5 After School Club

Tuning In

When I introduced it to Grades 3-5 students during our Digital Design club, I gave them a chance to figure out how it works first. It was interesting to see what they already knew about circuits, power sources, and how electricity flows. Still, it took some guided instructions from the website for all the students in my club to get the MakeyMakey up and running with a program.

Finding Out

I wanted students to have a discussion about circuits and the flow of electricity. So I started off projecting the MakeyMakey piano on the Smartboard. Then I connected students to each alligator clip, and nominated one person to be the ‘pianist’. Holding the ‘Earth’ Alligator clip (this can also be a tinfoil bracelet as seen in G1 video above), this student proceeded to slap students’ hands to produce different notes on the piano. I then took the ‘Earth’ clip away from him and he wasn’t able to play the students’ hands anymore. As a group, we talked about what was different and indicated the ‘earth’ clip completed the circuit. We traced the flow of electricity from the power source (battery of laptop) down the USB cord to the MakeyMakey, through the Earth alligator clip on one hand/wrist and out through the other hand, slapping the ‘notes’ (student hands) connected to the MakeyMakey keyboard. (Unfortunately no photos available so hope this description will do!)

Sorting Out & Going Further

Students then had about 30 minutes on their own to try various Scratch games such as Super Mario Bros, Mazes, Bongos and the Piano. MakeyMakey Scratch Studio has many student-created games for these kits.

MakeyMakeys are an exciting way to broaden the scope of ‘technology in the classroom’. It will be interesting to see how ‘tech integration’ changes as more invention-type kits become available to bridge the gap between ‘screentime’ and hands-on science.




Introducing Final COETAIL project: CARP Jr (Week 1 Progress)

For my final COETAIL project I have designed a 6-week unit on visual literacy elements aimed at lower primary (KG-G2).I was particularly interested in how lower primary students can access the complex language of the CARP design principles. I decided to remix Keri-Lee Beasley‘s model into an interactive Google Presentation, as shown below. My previous COETAIL post, CARP Jr, details why I chose this project as well as outlines the 6 week unit.

The first week of introducing the CARP acronym went well! In my role as EdTech Coach, the G1 classroom teacher and I agreed to team-teach this lesson. This allowed me to present and introduce the terminology (using the above Google Presentation) as well as make some connections for students. Meanwhile, the classroom teacher observed, and then took over after the group activities to make deeper connections to other learning.

Week 1: What is C.A.R.P?

We started the lesson looking at the examples (printed on paper) of “I Love My Dog Bingo”. Students needed to come up with something they liked and something they thought could be improved. It was difficult for them to come up with vocabulary to describe it. However many of them noticed that it was hard to see some of the writing, and that the pictures didn’t represent what the text said.

Then, we went through the CARP presentation together (above Google Presentation) and learned the terminology using kinesthetics (clapping out the syllables) and enunciating the parts of each word. I carefully crafted each poster to reinforce the meaning of each word:

Some students were able to make connections to words like Repetition, as they had learned this word in music. It was an excellent opportunity to apply reading strategies and the classroom teacher helped make links with certain words they were learning. One clear example was when they were sounding out Alignment, they kept getting stuck on the ‘g’. The teacher made a connection to their Science unit on Light and Sound and they quickly made the connection to the ‘silent g’ in light and were able to sound out Alignment more or less independently. It helped that the CARP poster I created for Alignment also had lines on it:

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After the initial tuning-in to the language of C.A.R.P, students had the opportunity to revisit the “I love my dog Bingo” posters. In groups, they tried to find one area (from CARP) that could be changed to improve the poster. For most of the students, they were able to explain what was wrong but had trouble remembering the exact term. Referring to the CARP posters above the SmartBoard helped them make connections to the words. Each group presented their poster and shared which element of design would improve the layout.


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A group of 4 students had examined this poster together. Since we are not permitted to release videos of certain students, an example of some of the dialogue between the teacher and student is as follows:

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Student A (pointing to the grey text): “We need to change the colour.”

Teacher: “Would changing the colour be Contrast, Proximity, Alignment or Repetition?”

Student A: “Hmmm…I think Contrast…”

Teacher: “Yes, ‘Contrast’ so it pops out…remember ‘C-Colour’ begins with a ‘C’ and ‘C-Contrast’ begins with a ‘C'”

The classroom teacher helped to reinforce the vocabulary making connections to what the students were saying. The visuals on the poster were also helpful when students were trying to be precise about the terminology, though since a majority of the class have some ESL needs, most will need to hear these new words many more times to remember them.

Next we will be unpacking each word in more detail, doing some hands-on activities to see what Contrast looks like and having a go at modifying some digital media with better Contrast.