Visuals: Handout Considerations 3

In a stack of papers called Instruction.

  • Aug
  • 25
  • 2007

In a recent post, Dan shows a handout that’s all too familiar. Would that type of worksheet become any better if the formatting was consistent? If font, alignment, and spacing weren’t so horribly off, would that bad worksheet become good? It’ll take more than that, won’t it?

Fixin’ What Needs Fixin’

I’m not a math teacher and I don’t know what squares students would cut out (I’m guessing they are squares of varying sizes), but here’s what I came up with. On the left is the original, untouched but for format changes. On the right, I’ve made significant changes to the content as well as the look.

Plain worksheet, just textWorksheet with reworded questions and more visuals

The original is only marginally better this time. There’s more wrong with it than format. If this handout went to a group of AP students reviewing material they already should know in a cram moments before the exam, a list of poorly worded (and redundant) questions might suffice. For most classes, though, visuals add excitement to the work students pour into an assignment. This is all anecdotal, but draw a box and students are more likely to fill it in.

Your Turn

Here’s a Word document of both handouts for you to play around with. Come up with a better combination? Write a blog post about it and link back!

The other consideration in all of this, though, is a pragmatic one: if I can create a better handout, but it makes me go over my copy limit for the month because it’s now 3 pages instead of just 1, I’m going to stick to the 1 page version. I’ll do everything I can to improve that 1-page design, but I’m not going to expand to 3 pages; if I can’t get copy for each of my 160 kids due to copying restrictions (or maybe we’re out of paper/toner or the copy machine is broken that week), then that well-designed handout is worthless. It’s sad, but a very real situation that I know I find myself in far too often. Am I the only one?


1. Jackie says:

[8/25/2007 - 6:17 am]

You are not the only one facing paper restrictions. I just had a worksheet I redesigned (due to Dan’s influence) that I was told to reduce to 1/2 a page – too much white space. That way I could copy two per page. ARGH!!!

2. H. says:

[8/26/2007 - 11:26 am]

As for copier restrictions: At the risk of raising all kinds of awkward political questions, I’ve found spending some $$ at Copy Central to be worth it. Instead of changing a worksheet to stay within quotas, instead of standing in line by the copier Monday morning and risk it being jammed anyway, copying at my own expense has kept adrenaline levels at a comfortable level many a time. Of course, the bad thing is helping sustain an expectation that teachers just do that.

3. Todd says:

[8/26/2007 - 12:18 pm]

Jackie, who told you to make it 1/2 page? You’ve got 300 copies each month? That’s acceptable. Each worksheet can only take up 1/2 page? That’s overkill. Can you make any copies you need or is there a Copy Czar keeping you within certain limits all the time?

H, that expectation you suggest at the end is exactly what worries me and it’s prevalent. Running down to the local copy store is an option, but that needs to be the last straw, not the only one. Still, you’re right: it’s helped keep me calm when I’m in a pinch. I wonder if teachers can raise funds from local businesses to pay back copy expenses.