Over the summer, the ISA faculty studied The Strategic Teacher: Selecting the Right Research-Based Strategy for Every Lesson by Harvey F. Silver, Richard W. Strong and Matthew J. Perini. We were challenged to use at least one strategy from this book in the first few weeks of school.
One strategy I used, with success, was Concept Attainment.
My goal was to teach my classes about two basic types of fonts. I created a Google Drawing with two boxes and words written in the center. I had hoped to use my Smart board to drag the center words into either the green box or the red box. That didn’t work, so I just stood at my computer (this year, it faces the students rather than the wall) and clicked and dragged the words. I did not tell students why one word was going into a particular box–they had to deduce the rules. After 4 or 5 words, I asked the class to predict which category I should drag the word towards, and they started to understand. When all the words were in place, I asked them to explain the rule. In every class, several people volunteered to explain the rule. I then elaborated on the history of fonts, from the times of professional scribes to the printing press to the era of the computer monitor and now, high resolution screens. I told them that research shows sans-serif fonts are easier to read on digital devices but serif fonts are easier to read in print. These rules can be intentionally broken, especially when there is a small amount of text.
To assess the students individually, I required that their next assignment use a sans-serif font. The vast majority of students choose the correct font, but since the default font is a san-serif one, this could have been an accident. If they used the wrong font type, I took off 5 points, and explained the difference again. I will continue throughout the year to require certain font types to reinforce these ideas.
In case you did not know, a serif font has decorative edges (serifs) on the ends of the letters. In the days of professional scribes, elaborate flourishes were prized. Upon invention of the printing press, fonts in movable type were designed to contain almost as many decorative embellishments, but over time they became simplified. Early computer monitors required very simple fonts, because the resolution was poor. Modern graphic designers mix fonts to create an interesting and visually appealing product.
I am happy with my decision to use Concept Attainment to teach about fonts. I modified my Google Drawing into a template so it could be used by the entire faculty. I hope they find it useful, and I also hope I can figure out a way to do this on the SmartBoard in the future.