Lesson: Using Infographics To Teach The Life Cycle Of An Insect
by Dawn Casey-Rowe
My third-grade son is learning charts and graphs. I love charts and graphs–there’s something magical about being able to take information and distill them into a simple and beautiful form.
“A picture’s worth a thousand words.” This is true, even for the very young–especially for the very young. It’s important for young children to be able to work with data. Data is everywhere, and in an era of statistics, measurement, pivoting and analysis, data skills are critical.
What kinds of activities can young children do with infographics?
The answer is several. Because infographics categorize, sort, and show relationships, even the youngest children can interpret or generate simple infographics.
One of the best places to start with infographics for the very young is in science. There are so many causes, effects, and cycles students can see. Don’t just create an infographic from on high and hand it out to the class, though. Get clever!
Need an idea? Here’s a Choose Your Own Adventure lesson that allows for learning, reinforcing, and assessing the life cycle of an insect. The beauty of this unit is that it covers skills in research, writing, oral communication, mathematical modeling, and much, much more. And with a tweak of the imagination and a few questioning prompts could be used anywhere from grade K to high school or homeschool Life Science.
Using Infographics and Inquiry to Teach the Life Cycle of an Insect
Insect Background: Insects have four life stages–egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The Museum Victoria in Melbourne, Australia has an excellent insect page showing this. There is even a little life cycle diagram on the page with arrows pointing to the name of each stage showing how the eggs hatch into larva, the larva transforms into pupa, and the pupa completes metamorphosis, then becomes into an adult which lays eggs.
That’s the life cycle in a nutshell–tons of insects, creating millions more. This is why we have no shortage of creepy crawly things in our lives, but this isn’t a Raid commercial, it’s science!
What will we accomplish?
Students will produce, manipulate, and order details of the insect life cycle by constructing and deconstructing elements of infographics. Students will assess data, and use their own research to create and present infographics of their own.
Activity 1: Read about an Insect (one class period) For older students or students with 1:1 computer access, allow each student to choose an insect and write down as many facts as they can about their insect. You may choose to create a scavenger hunt question sheet or note outline to guide students.
For younger students or schools without 1:1 access, assign students an insect either individually or in groups, and provide one or more reading selections for students to learn about that insect and its life cycle.
After students have completed the readings, hunts, and questions, have students share out the most fascinating things they discovered, or one new fact they learned. Shareouts can be with small student groups, partners, or the entire class.
Activity 2: Learn the Insect Life Cycle: Create the Pieces (one class period) Give each student four cards. Have students draw each stage of the life cycle for their insect, along with the name of the stage. Then, have students number them in order from egg to adult, and explain the process of the egg growing into the adult insect.
Activity 3: That’s Not the Right Infographic! (one class period) Create four infographics, laminated for reuse or printed on cardstock if possible. Use simple pictures and arrows representing the lifecycle of a bug with engaging graphics.
Create three incorrect infographics and one correct. Mistakes can include titles, order of the stages of the life cycle, confusing use of infographic visuals, or data errors depending on the age group.
Put each infographic in a separate learning station allowing students to move around and discuss each infographic in pairs or small groups. Students will have a piece of paper or an organizer with a space for analyzing each infographic. Students will label the infographics correct or incorrect on their sheets and list the reasons for their thinking.
When all students have cycled through the stations, have students vote to identify the right infographic and discuss how they were able to rule out the others.
Activity 4: Assessment: Create Your Own Infographic (two or more class periods, or home project with in-school presentation) This may be done at home or at school. Have students create an infographic of their own for the bug they chose or were assigned. Students should not only show the complete lifecycle of that insect, but identify and display any unique facts, statistics, or characteristics of that insect–this could be anything from natural enemies, number of offspring, regions of the United States, or varieties of insect.
As for differentiation, this assessment is easy to tailor to any age group from the very young through high school as well as English Language Learners or special needs students. You can include word banks, have partially completed infographics either on the computer or on paper, or have students strategically paired with research buddies. Older students can produce infographics with far more in-depth research and details.
Supplementary Activities: Students can predict causes and effects studying things like the effects of pesticide on certain insects, death of honeybees, Monarch butterfly migration patterns, how global warming affects insects populations, or look at the relationship between food production and good and bad insects.
Each of these additional activities could be charts, data, or infographics on their own as well. This four-stage strategy is useful for any data analysis or infographic activity–I could use to illustrate the water cycle, pollution cleanup, election cycles or the Dynastic Cycle, or the effects of population growth before, during and after the Black Plague. I simply want to break down each lesson into four basic elements:
- Initial research: what am I learning about
- Students sketch out the pieces: draw, sketch, or take note of the pieces that make up the whole puzzle or cycle in solid note or infographic style.
- Optional “Find the wrong info” activities: Look through incorrect infographics and sources to find the correct ones.
- Students create their own work adding appropriate details, research, side-notes, and interesting facts to educate the viewer.
Easil.ly infographics can help students dig deep into lessons, and they can be used to build a variety of skills with a few simple techniques. Don’t be afraid to use them in new and creative ways! Share out your best uses on twitter at @easel_ly; image attribution flickr user joiito