The Use of Shape

This was the assignment:

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A few weeks ago, in my EdTech 506 Graphic Design for Learning class, I was assigned a project to develop a Unit of Instruction that featured design elements for my final, end-of-the-semester project. As I am an English teacher, and as I am currently reviewing parts of speech with my sophomore, I decided it might be a fun experiment to play around with grammar in the context of graphical design.

However, after a few days of stressing over this assignment, I might be regretting this decision.
I_ve made a huge mistake

What I failed to fully consider is how abstract language and language education is, so to design visual representations of parts of speech (e.g. adverbprepositioninfinitive) is a huge challenge. As this assignment was focused on shape, I tried hard to design a flowchart, a graphic organizer, or a direction-provider, but I’m not sure how well I’ve done.


Who are my users and what assumptions do I make about them?

I would be presenting this resource to my own students, so it’s a group that I am intimately familiar with. My students in this class would be sophomores, between the ages of 13 and 17, with medium-low to medium English writing, reading & grammar skills. They should have a basic understanding of the parts of speech in English, as they would have been taught parts of speech at least once, in their freshman year, but most likely, they’ve forgotten the names and roles of the different parts of speech and are “due” for a reminder.

Why do you think your solution will work?

On page 250, Lohr explains that “the form-giving function of shape explains its influence on learning.”  I think I best show this when I use the modifies this > to not only say that adverbs point to adjectives and adjectives point to nouns, but also when I have it formed as an arrow pointing from the one word to the next. The shape of the text is showing how it works just as easily as reading it. I think this will make the image clear to understand. Additionally, as lines “are used to separate and define, show motion and direction, make connections, show process, and convey emotion and volume,” this also makes my abstract information work as a visual image.

What did you learn from a “user-test”?

The response I got from this image was 1) that it looked like a children’s book 1, 2) the trees don’t really support the message, and 3) the text at the top is easy and clear to understand. For the most part, I agree that the trees aren’t necessary to the “success” or effectiveness of the image, but I do think that they make it seem more interesting to look at, and they blend well with the color scheme of the words at the top. I also think that the idea of the “modifies this” arrows makes clear that the adverb “very” is talking about the “big”-ness of the tree and not the tree itself. As I pressed the image reviewer, we both decided that the word modifies sounds like “English-teacher speak” and can be just as easily changed to describes to make it more accessible. Below is my adjusted image.



Lohr, Linda, L. (2008). Creating Graphics for Learning and Performance, Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.


  1. I don’t know if that was supposed to be an insult, but I rather enjoy the simplicity and graphic brilliance of children’s literature, so I’m taking it as a compliment!
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2 thoughts on “The Use of Shape

  1. […] like the last few weeks, I would be presenting this resource to my own students, so it’s a group that I am intimately […]

  2. […] like the last few weeks, I would be presenting this resource to my own students, so it’s a group that I am intimately […]

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