In this interdisciplinary lesson, K-8 students try to interpret what a set of pictographs --pictures that symbolize a word or concept -- really mean. They then "write" a few sentences using their own pictograph system.
This lesson is adaptable for most students in grades K-8 and can fit within either a language arts class (focusing on communication) or a social studies lesson with a multicultural focus.
Are pictures really worth 1000 words? Begin the lesson by showing students a pictograph. (To find one, check out such sites as Indian Pictographs, National Park Service Pictographs, or Pictographs on Parade.) Ask students what the pictograph "says." Ask them how they know what it means. Then share with students that they'll be looking at a set of pictographs and trying to decide what each means. Explain that when they're finished, they'll then get a chance to create their own language using pictures.
Either walk students through the next steps using your computer and projector or TV, or have students complete the steps on their own classroom computers or laptops.
If, as the teacher, you're concerned about student's safety, you can fill in a generic demographic of your class (female, 9) and give a fictitious name. Or you can encourage students to use fictitious names. See Keeping Kids Safe Online for more information.
You can either choose to have students complete the survey or use this activity for class discussion purposes.Be sure to click "If you've tried the following Pictons, please click here for other Pictons" button to see more symbols.
Next, ask students to write something using only symbols. You might want to give younger students a specific sentence to represent, such as, "I love pizza" or "I want to sleep." For those in grades 3-8, you might allow students to compose their own messages, simply offering them a guideline on the number of sentences to include.
Depending on computer resources and skills, you can have students compose their messages using clip art in Word or AppleWorks, use the computer to draw their own symbols, or simply use coloring pencils or crayons.
When each student has completed his or her message, review each to ensure it's class appropriate, and then display the messages around the room. Have students walk around with paper and pen and write down what each message means. Ask students not to discuss the messages or ask for clarification from the writer or another student.
Invite students to share their interpretations of the messages. You might even give prizes to the clearest message or the silliest message or.
As you're wrapping up the lesson, be sure to return to the question "What makes one symbol better than another and why?"
LANGUAGE ARTS: English
GRADES K - 12
NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.9 Multicultural Understanding
NL-ENG.K-12.10 Applying Non-English Perspectives
NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills
SOCIAL SCIENCES: Geography
GRADES K - 12
NSS-G.K-12.5 Environment and Society