[This is a reading quiz.]

It's not enough for students to read something or hear something, they need to do something with that knowledge and understanding to make it stick. This is the idea behind Representing-to-Learn.  Writing and other representing-to-learn strategies like painting, dancing and singing are "tools for thinking" and using these tools "allows a learner to both explore and show what she knows" (Daniels and Bizar, p. 77).

Writing is the most frequent go-to strategy for representing-to-learn used in the classroom -- and for good reason; it's a good one --, but a number of other strategies should be employed. A favorite representing-to-learn option for a large number of my students is the six-frame comic strip.  I got this idea from the excellent Bionic Teaching blog. Here's what Tom Woodward, author of the post on the comic strips had to say about them:

This is another beautiful, reductionist way to analyze a book, historical figure, era, epoch or movement. I don’t see much use for math but I could also see some science possibilities.

You could pair up with an art teacher or just do it on your own. I’d have a stable of activities1 similar to these and allow students the option to choose between them at various points.

Keep in mind, they don’t have to be drawn. Let them use photographs. They could even take their own pictures. The concept/framework is simple but don’t let it box you in.

This is the stuff I really like in history and English. It’s low work on the teacher, high processing on the students. Deciding what elements are essential is a task that requires a lot of understanding and critical thinking, then representing those ideas graphically is another level of processing.


I loved the idea, so I took the raw template and sometimes used it as an option for reading quizzes or for students who were not interested in writing out summaries of readings.

Here's what the raw template looks like:


Besides using these comic strips as a representing-to-learn strategy, I enjoy implementing a few other methods quite frequently. These other methods include:
  • Interesting writing prompts, which I've been collecting for awhile now and which often show up in front of students looking something like this:
  • "Logos logs" or a notebook for collecting writing prompts, class notes, random musings and such.
  • Frequent but random exit slips
  • Wallwisher posts as assignments. An example from one of my courses is here.
  • Another great method I've used a few times is to have students create a poster in the modernist style that represents the theme of a whole chapter or unit. This idea also comes from Bionic Teaching originally. Here's a screen shot from the Keynote, which introduced the activity and gave examples of modernist/minimalist posters, which students mimicked for each of the chapters in their Pacific Northwest history book.