Teacher As Designer: Handout Considerations 2

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Apr
  • 28
  • 2007

I hate that this is the case, but there’s a part of our job that’s advertising. As teachers, we are selling a product. We all need to think about that when designing–yes, designing–handouts.

If you’re just copying that same bland page from the teacher before you, what do you think is the immediate reaction of your classes? Xeroxed back in 1983 in all its blue-and-white glory, Times New Roman almost too fat to read, outdated information, no layout to speak of. Does that sound attractive to you? Do you think MySpace and PSP students are going to find that attractive?

An eye-catching paper is one step closer to the student actually reading and understanding it.

Your Homework

Go to your nearest library and pick up two copies of any magazine, one from the 80s and a recent issue. Look at the ads. Retro is still cool, but only to an extent. Notice differences and similarities in not only graphic content, but also the way text falls on the page. Bring these layout observations to the next assignment you create. More on this later.

An Example

From last time, imagine this: you’ve got a reading schedule to create. You need to include a scale of page numbers and two different sets of due dates. Here are two options:

  1. This is one page.
    One-page schedule, landscape layout, all three columns of information side by side
  2. This is two pages.
    Two-page schedule portrait layout, all three columns of information stacked atop one another

This semester, option 1 is what I handed out. It took no small degree of consideration to arrive there. Shrinking margins, moving tables around, repeatedly realizing that Word isn’t the program to be using for all this, font size, font face, spacing and placement on the page, all these things enter the calculations. It has to look (somewhat) attractive. I’m still working on that.

My favorite part of option 1 is that the page can be folded in half. If the reading scale is more important to you, just look at that half of the page. If the due dates are paramount, just look at that half. You can always flip to the other side for more information. I split pages up like this as often as I can.

Simply handing out what you have? We can’t do that. Design matters. We’re selling a product.

In the interest of conservation (both of natural resources and my monthly photocopy allowance), I try to fit things onto a single page. The added benefit is that students prefer a single page to a big packet of information. You can even play the double-sided trick to get more in front of them without triggering that “Oh no!” reflex that kicks in when they see a staple in the upper left corner.

Design with your kids in mind. By no means am I a pro at this. I struggle with using too many words, as you might imagine. But realizing that our job includes design can’t be stressed enough.

Do you see any flaws or benefits in your handouts, things that might repel or attract student eyes? Leave a comment so we can all learn. I’ll post some links to some of my handouts later, both good and bad examples.

1 comment

1. English Education Professor » Blog Archive » Design Handouts to Compete with MySpace says:

[4/29/2007 - 9:23 am]

[…] From Thoughts on Teaching Blog, handout design matters. […]