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Make Units More Inspiring with Vision Boards

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Listen to the interview with Amanda Cardenas and Marie Morris:

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There’s a lot of talk in education about making learning visible for students. But what about for teachers? Do we not also crave visual organization? Aesthetically visually pleasing spaces? Sure, teachers have likely become teachers through their ferocious ability to adapt to many different learning styles, but we too benefit from harnessing the power of the visual.

Enter: the unit vision board.

You’ve been tasked with creating a curriculum map for a future unit. It’s a Google Doc with boxes and bullet points and a dizzying amount of text. Let’s hit the brakes for a moment and step back: how about doing a vision board for this task instead?

WHY A VISION BOARD?

Vision boards gained their popularity within the realm of “life hacks” and new year goal setting, but once I applied this practice to my teaching life, I was delighted by the results. A vision board is about building a dream: What would a dream scenario for this unit look like? A unit vision board is a lesson planning tool that allows teachers to imagine their units as an experience and think through what it would feel like to be part of that experience.

Take The Great Gatsby for example:

Vision board for The Great Gatsby by Amanda Cardenas. Click image for larger view. See this folder for more examples.

This vision board aims to capture all of the things I would want to address if there were no time or other restrictions on my curriculum: 

Could I have accomplished this on our department issued spreadsheet? 

Sure.  But a spreadsheet with bullets and columns is a little less…alive.

Vision board for To Kill a Mockingbird by Amanda Cardenas. Click image for a larger view. See this folder for more examples.

WHAT TO INCLUDE

A vision board is different from a curriculum map in that the elements included don’t need to be limited in any way. A unit vision board should be a big picture collage of all the things you hope to read, address, reference, and experience together. Here’s a checklist to get you started:

Experience

Content

Structural Components

Rhetoric & argument unit vision board by Marie Morris. Click image for a larger view. See this folder for more examples.

ASSEMBLING YOUR UNIT VISION BOARD

My go-to tool for creating a vision board is Google Slides. I set my page size to 11 X 8.5 (so I can print it out later!), add a background image, and just start layering! Use Insert >> word art for easily movable pieces, Insert >> image or video for layering images and YouTube videos into your collage.

Canva is also a wonderful tool to do almost the exact same things listed above. Whichever tool is more in your comfort zone is the best place to start. 

HOW TO USE THE BOARD

Use your vision board as a rough draft, a starting place—something that makes building the required spreadsheet a bit easier and more meaningful. Use your vision board on display in your classroom to remind you about what you care about most deeply in this unit. You can also share your vision board with students and have them make predictions about the unit based on what they see. 

No matter how you use it or where it ends up, I hope the process in creating a vision board inspires you to tackle your unit in a new way and with a renewed passion for why this unit exists in the curriculum in the first place. 


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16 Comments

  1. Laura Russak says:

    Hi! This was such a great podcast and an so inspiring. I can’t find the folder you mentioned that links to other vision boards. Can you let me know where that is? So excited to try this with my teams.

    • Margaret Harris-Shoates says:

      Hi, Laura! Sorry for the confusion! We have added a link to the folder in the captions of each example shown in the post. Thanks!

  2. Is there a math example?

  3. Molly Matlock says:

    I love the vision board idea! Do you have any examples from people who have done it for math units?

  4. Jennifer Danner says:

    Thank you so much for this idea. This is how my mind works. Before I would plan a unit using a piece of chart paper and post-it notes. It helped, but it still wasn’t as alive as the ideas swirling inside my head. Vision board planning makes me excited to think. It’s my conference period right now where I have a million tiny fires that beg to be extinguished. All I want to do is vision board my next unit (which already exists but could be SO MUCH MORE).

  5. Here is one I am working on using Padlet. It is for a High School Art 1 class.

  6. This looks wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing with us!

  7. Barbara Oechsler Lohse says:

    Thank you for this idea, but I am confused a bit. I understand the concept of pictures, ideas of what the unit will look like, and creating a VB. But why was the TED Talk, Does Money Make You Mean, and Invictus mentioned? Was that to add links in the pictures on the vision board, to lead students to talks, articles, poems etc? Or is the VB just to inspire and provide this is what to look forward to?
    Thanks!

    • Margaret Harris-Shoates says:

      Hi, Barbara! In the section “Why a Vision Board?” Amanda mentions that the unit vision board is intended to capture the different things she would want to address in the unit if there were no time or other restrictions on curriculum. Later on in the section “What to Include,” she describes unit vision boards as “a big picture collage of all the things you hope to read, address, reference, and experience together.” This includes specific content for the unit, such as TED Talks and poems. I hope this helps!

  8. Jeannie Fox says:

    I just listened to this episode on my way to and from the gym and was so inspired and energized that I created a vision board for my upcoming unit on A Raisin in the Sun and cannot wait to do create one for The Crucible – one of my all-time favorite texts!! Here is the link to my vision board: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mBKgMlkcuBMlZV_OhMgTU4d0X0NUzSmZ/view?usp=sharing

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