Using one-pagers to respond to a novel is a trend that’s swept through the Language Arts world for a couple of years now. And, to be perfectly clear, it is an educational trend that I hope (and believe) will stay for the long run. I’ve seen the power of one-pagers in my classroom as I’ve used them with advanced, regular Language Arts, and even remedial students upon completing a novel. They are personal, creative, and highly effective tools for responding to literature. So I couldn’t help but wonder, how else can we use one-pagers?
What is a one-pager?
Let’s take a second to get on the same page regarding what a one-pager is. A one-pager is a document providing a high-level overview of something, be it a novel, a scientific process, a business, a historical event, a unit of study, etc. AVID introduced it as “…a creative response to your learning experience.”
Teachers generally put parameters in place regarding the expectations for their one-pager, but they are often class-specific and depend heavily on what the one-pagers will be used for.
Examples of expectations might include:
- Capture the main idea of the reading/event/concept
- Include essential vocabulary words and definitions
- Include 2-3 quotes from the text
- Include 2-3 related visuals
- Fill the entire page
- Visually appealing
In addition, there are additional expectations regarding the content. If I were using a one-pager to summarize a novel, I might add a few bullet points regarding the theme, character growth/changes, symbolism, etc.
How else can one-pagers be used?
Call me old-fashioned, but I do believe note-taking can have powerful effects on the learning process (especially when done by hand). Numerous studies have shown that students who take notes can better process and code new information and have higher retention rates.
My goal was to merge the two worlds: one-pagers + note-taking = amplified learning.
When the time came to introduce a new unit of study, I decided to do so with a one-pager. Previously, when I started a new unit and asked students to take notes on key vocabulary terms, they’d turn to a random page in the middle of their binder, haphazardly scribble a few sentences down, and forget that paper ever existed. Repeat this process over 1-2 weeks of mini-lessons, and students’ binders became a black hole where all new information went to die.
With a one-pager, students would have all the key content (for the entire unit!) on a single page! Talk about a high-level overview.
In addition to using one-pagers to capture critical content for a new unit, one-pagers can also be an effective tool to use as a final review at the end of a unit. When used in this capacity, much of the note-taking/completion will be driven by the students instead of the teacher. However, a significant benefit is that every student is given a designated time to review content in a brain-based method that is proven to support higher rates of recall + synthesis.
How to Create One-Pagers for New Content
For your one-pager to incorporate all the key content for your unit, you must build it with the end in mind.
Start with identifying the purpose for your unit and the big, overarching concepts. Our Language Arts scope and sequence focuses on the five big genres of literature (fiction, nonfiction, argument, poetry, and drama), so it made sense for me to focus on the unique elements of each genre. For the fiction unit, this was:
- Point of View
Once I identified the prominent pillars of the unit, I built out a purposeful one-pager that would assist students in the note-taking process. The same study that shows students who take notes are better able to process, code, and retain new information also shows that students who are given notes have similar retention rates. This information, combined with my experience in how efficient 6th graders are with taking notes, led me to believe a structured one-pager would do wonders.
I was right.
I created space on the one-pager for each pillar and added small amounts of key information. The rest was left a blank slate for my students to fill out with me during instruction.
Carve out space for anything else you think your students will need to take note of or remember at some point during the unit.
To clarify, my unit one-pagers are double-sided. We record information on the front and back, but technically it only uses one paper per student at the copier, so I classify it as a one-pager. 😂
Once you have your one-pager built out, complete one, and make sure everything fits the way you want it to, that it’s organized and clear for students to follow and use, and that it captures the entirety of the learning experience.
Examples of Language Arts One-Pagers
I’ve now built out one-pagers for each genre of study. You can see examples of my unit one-pagers below.
Elements of Fiction
Our fiction one-pager captures the story elements that I want students to know like the back of their hands:
- Point of View
I’d love to include literary devices that we frequently encounter, like foreshadowing, flashbacks, imagery, dialogue, etc. But that’s likely a one-pager for another day.
Our nonfiction one-pager captures the elements of nonfiction that align with our informational text standards.
- Author’s Purpose
- Types of Nonfiction
- Main Idea
- Author’s Point of View
- Text Structure
- Text Features
The one-pagers we use for our argument unit capture:
- Author’s Purpose
- Difference between argument and persuasion
Our poetry one-pager is the most jam-packed one of all (there’s a lot!). It covers:
- Types of Poetry
- Form & Structure
- Sound Devices
- Figurative Language
- Voice (Poet, Speaker, Point of View, Tone)
Last but not least is our drama one-pager. This one-pager includes:
- Types of Dramas
- Script (Dialogue, Stage Directions)
- Set Design
- Acts & Scenes
One-Pagers: One Size Does Fit All
One-pagers are an effective tool that teachers of any content area can use. They require students to do most of the heavy lifting while cementing key concepts. Whether you’re introducing a new unit, reviewing one, or wanting your students to reflect on a learning experience, one-pagers are a great solution.
If you’re a Language Arts teacher, you can grab any of the one-pagers I listed above here on my shop. Otherwise, create your own one-pagers that will work for your classroom, your students, and your content. I’d love to see what you come up with!