Are you googling one pagers because you’re trying to avoid grading yet another stack of essays? I don’t blame you. That’s how I started, too. Or, maybe you are wondering whether a one pager is the right assignment for your students? Maybe it’s that you’re not sure how to create one, when to assign it, or how to provide structure? One pagers can be meaningful as a creative response to literature. Sprinkling them into your ELA curriculum is a powerful way to ask students to reflect upon what they have read. Plus, it lightens your grading load. Keep reading for tips that will help you assign a one pager in your secondary classroom. (P.S. – They aren’t just for ELA!)
WHAT IS A ONE PAGER?
As its name indicates, a one pager is a single page response to a text. They typically focus on showcasing the theme of a narrative or the topic of an informational text. Students include a variety of information to show they can think critically about a story, poem, book, article, video clip, or other text. For example, students might include important quotes, analysis, symbolism, figurative language, themes, images, doodles, connections, questions, and more. One pagers move students beyond basic comprehension to a more mature way of thinking about a text.
WHY ASSIGN A ONE PAGER?
I find one pagers valuable ways to check for understanding. Perhaps you want to see how students are thinking about what they have read. Assigning a one pager can give teachers the insight while still allowing students creativity in expression. One pagers also ask students to move beyond summarizing to a deeper level. Besides, one pagers are an excellent way for non-ELA teachers to promote literacy. Any time students are reading a text (even in science, history, or art class, for instance), they can create a one pager in response.
WHEN SHOULD I ASSIGN A ONE PAGER?
One pagers are excellent forms of differentiation. I enjoy using them as an option for students to respond to a text. Perhaps you’ve just finished grading essays and can’t stand the thought of drowning in yet another stack (already!). One pagers are usually quick and easy to grade, but they still require that students are thinking and making meaning. One pagers are excellent complements to choice reading units, poetry units, short story units, whole class novel units, literature circles, and book clubs. Want to see how students are relating the central idea of paired texts? Use a one pager!
WHAT SHOULD I AVOID WITH A ONE PAGER?
CREATING TOO FEW OR TOO MANY GUIDELINES.
It’s important to think about the age of your students. Most middle school students need structure and guidance; students who are not used to thinking from an abstract angle can struggle. Because one pagers are not concrete, teachers need to be specific in their expectations with younger students. High school students who are comfortable with creative thinking and who are used to coloring outside the lines thrive with less scaffolding.
GRADING ON ARTISTIC ABILITY.
It can be easy to get caught up in beautiful one pagers. If you’ve ever made one yourself, you understand how difficult they really are. It’s important to encourage students for their creative thought process – not their creative drawings or beautiful coloring.
DESIGNING RUBRICS BASED ON EFFORT.
With creative assignments, it’s important to validate students’ thinking. When we design rubrics based off of perceived effort, we undermine the content students create. A one pager rubric should reflect skills that are tangible and measurable. For example, I would not include a category for “Effort.” Instead, I would include a category for “Content.” Within that category, it would be reasonable to ask students to cover the page with their reflection on the text. It’s something you can measure. Either the page is covered, or it’s not. Effort, on the other hand, is much more difficult to grade objectively.
USING IT TO “PROVE READING”.
Like most reading projects, one pagers don’t “prove” students have read something. Granted, it’s extremely difficult to create an exemplary one pager without a solid understanding of a text. Still, when I assign one pagers, it’s because I want to see how students are analyzing and synthesizing a text. I use them as a way to measure learning toward standards…not a way to force reading. If you are concerned students aren’t reading a text, the best thing you can do is to confer with them as regularly as possible.
UNDERESTIMATING THE TIME THEY TAKE.
Creating an inspiring one pager takes time. If you’ve never tried to make one before, I encourage you to take on the task before assigning it to students. The first time I did this I was struck by two facts: mine was terrible…and it took way longer than I expected. I still believe they are worth the time and energy, but creating my own example gave me better perspective for what I should expect from students. Plus, I understood I needed to provide them more class time than I originally anticipated in order to complete the work.
TIPS FOR ONE PAGER SUCCESS
COMPLETE ONE YOURSELF.
Making a one pager was a humbling experience for me. It really gave me insight into my students’ struggles. What was in my head is not what came out on paper. This experience resulted in a more empathetic and appreciative view of the one pagers I graded.
BRAINSTORM WITH STUDENTS.
Come up with a list of expectations for the assignment. Then, with students, brainstorm possible content to include. Secondary students have fabulous ideas and can inspire one another. Plus, discussing possibilities as a group gives teachers the opportunity to identify appropriate content and redirect students if necessary.
It’s hard to visualize a one pager without looking at examples. I google “one pager examples” and display some of the search results on the projector. I’ve also saved some examples to Google Classroom so that students can view them from their iPads. As we study the images, students begin to see how different they are. We note what works and what doesn’t. We talk about examples that exceed expectations and those that don’t.
Scaffold students’ experience with one pagers by providing templates. Use the templates to help students brainstorm and make a strategic plan for how they will maximize their space. The first time I assigned a one pager, I made all the mistakes…and found out that students don’t always know what to do with a blank page. That’s when I created these materials, which supported their thinking and led them toward the standards.
DON’T BOX YOURSELF IN.
It’s important that you don’t go into the one pager assignment thinking there are “rules.” There really aren’t! You can be as creative as you want, and students can, too. If they want their one pager to incorporate a mind map or a collage, that works. If you want them to add texture, don’t hesitate. Do you want students to create a one pager that incorporates multiple texts? Awesome! You do you.
USE THE ONE PAGER TO PROMOTE LITERACY.
It’s all about creating a literacy culture. We need secondary students to appreciate reading – to want to read. Providing students with a variety of ways to respond to a text is a way to achieve that goal. Saving the one pager for special occasions will help to ensure students don’t become burnt out with it. If you feel brave, allow students to work in partners to create a collaborative one pager. Many will love the social aspect of responding to reading. Building positive relationships between reading and how we ask students to respond to literature is a huge step in the process of building a community of readers.
One pagers are a valuable tool for any teacher. They should not replace all traditional essays, and they shouldn’t be assigned after every course text, but they are a wonderful alternative when used modestly. This resource contains scaffolded tools for getting started with literary and informational text one pagers.