A One Page Argument For Using T.A.C.O.S. In Your Teaching

We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so my parents got pretty creative with the food we ate. If you ate a meal at our crowded family table you were treated to:

  • Powdered milk. Just add water to the powder and stir. Don’t forget to smush the lumps.
  • Lettuce Rolls: Spread Miracle Whip on Iceberg Lettuce and roll them up.
  • Pasta sauce made with Campbell’s Tomato Soup
  • Chicken gizzards, livers, necks, before they were cool, we ate the stuff others threw away
  • White bread covered with brown sugar and “milk” served as dessert. Or molasses sopped up with bread, if we were lucky.

Now don’t get me wrong, we had plenty of good meals, mostly home-cooked, (we rarely ate out) but one of our favorites was Taco Night. (Hopefully followed the next day by Taco Salad) Taco Night was our favorite because you got to create your own meal exactly how you like it. Don’t like tomatoes? Leave em out. Love cheese or onions? Pack em on. You get to experience the same thing when you go to almost any decent hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant today.

taco 3

One of my favorite techniques for creating Taco Night in the classroom is the 1-Pager. You can use 1-Pagers with Social Studies, English, a Science unit etc… It’s a great tool because:

  • It allows choice and a place for students to find their own space in their learning
  • It creates an opportunity for art: art is incredibly engaging for students
  • It creates a chance for students to work on their communication and presentation skills
  • It encourages students to find a question or idea that is critical to understanding the topic
  • It provides an opportunity for students to work on organizing their ideas
  • It requires that students consider their audience
  • It can serve as a jumping off point for a deeper dive into the topic (a piece of writing or research)

What does a 1-pager look like? Here are two examples:


The Arts teach children to exercise that most exquisite of capacities, the ability to make judgments in the absence of rules. The rules that the arts obey are located in our children’s emotional interior; children come to feel a rightness of fit among the qualities with which they work. . . .they must exercise judgments by looking inside themselves. -Elliot W. Eisner, Stanford University


The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution. This, too, is at odds with the use in our schools of multiple choice tests in which there are no multiple correct answers. The tacit lesson is that there is almost always, a single correct answer. It’s seldom that way in life. -Elliot W. Eisner, Stanford University

So how do you use a 1-Pager, what are the steps?

FIRST: Introduce a Topic, Task, Theme, or Target for students to focus on.

This can be a novel, poem, play, time period, battle, scientific unit or concept, a school of art, an artist, a cultural event, a culture etc… students can take notes keeping track of important ideas, themes or even questions. I used the Question Formulaic Technique as an active reading strategy for All Quiet On The Western Front and The Catcher In The Rye. The last time Sean did this with his students he used the M.U.N.I. sheet as an active reading strategy that fed the 1-pager. 

SECOND: Ask Questions

You can either literally ask questions by using the QFT or ask questions like: What matters most to me in what I just learned? What matters most to others in what I just learned? What is the prompt or task asking me to do? How can I get this done in a way that matters to me?

So for this round of reading my students read a novel and I had them keep a question log using the QFT. Then when we were done they needed to find a single question that was an essential question for them, their friends, or others. Once they did that I showed them the Google Presentation Slides consisting of 1-Pager examples from previous years.

Then I handed out the one pager direction sheet and went over the instructions. If you want to see where Sean Ziebarth and I got the original idea for the 1 pager directions, you should check out Gabrielle Rico’s original directions for a 1-Pager that can be found on this blog post by the prodigious creator and sharer Alexa Garviolle.

THIRD: Create Critical Communication Creatively

Oh wait, did I just include all four Cs of the 21st century learning models? Wait, you’re telling me that I’m missing one? Collaboration? Yeah, let’s straighten that misconception up. You don’t have to MAKE things with other people to collaborate. Collaboration means working together. All creators collaborate with their audience or “client.” Far too often I see people racing to put students in groups in order to collaborate. You can collaborate by peer review, by giving feedback, by sharing your work before it’s finished, by asking others what they think, through a dialogue that exists in your mind: metacognition. 

Speaking of collaboration, one time I had students create a creative, visual rubric for the one pagers. They had to create the rubric using images, then explain how one of the one pagers from their classmates creations would score on their rubric. I still laugh looking at this one pager rubric based on potatoes.

FOURTH: Own Your Originality:

How is this creation uniquely yours? What part of you and how you see and notice is apparent? How did you Re/Mix the topic/task/target/theme into something new? How did you combine your “toppings” to make it your own?

FIFTH: Share

How will you share this with your audience? How can you make something worth sharing?

Speaking of sharing, here are some more examples followed by a final note:

page 6

Page 1

page 2

so cool, you can spin the carousel to see other quotes

“GE hires a lot of engineers. We want young people who can do more than add up a string of numbers and write a coherent sentence. They must be able to solve problems, communicate ideas and be sensitive to the world around them. Participation in the arts is one of the best ways to develop these abilities.”– Clifford V. Smith, President of the General Electric Foundation



page 7

the quotes slide out from the back, otherwise you don’t see them


page 12


The arts also teach that neither words nor numbers define the limits of our cognition; we know more than we can tell. There are many experiences and a multitude of occasions in which we need art forms to say what we cannot say. . . . Reflect on 9-11. . . The arts can provide forms of communication that convey to others what is ineffable. -Elliot W. Eisner


page 3

page 4


“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity.” –Steve Jobs

So don’t forget: the tortilla is the medium, the protein is the material being addressed, the toppings are student choice. Prepare your Taco Bar and have Taco Night regularly in your classroom and your students will always remember your family table fondly.

Taco Bar by Cairo Ziebarth

Image by Cairo Ziebarth: follow ArtByCairo on Twitter. Cool art for your projects.

T: Topic/Task/Target/Theme

A: Ask Questions

C: Create Critical Communication, Creatively.

O: Own your Originality

S: Share

Taco Truck 5 Cairo Ziebarth

I re/mixed some artwork by Cairo Ziebarth to create this image. Click his name to see and order some original artwork of your own.



“Geometry is the language of man… he has discovered rhythms, rhythms apparent to the eye and clear in the relations with one another. And these rhythms are at the very root of human activities. They resound in man by an organic inevitability, the same fine inevitability which causes the tracing out of the Golden Section by children, old men, savages, and the learned.” – Le Corbusier (1931, Towards A New Architecture)



If my parents ever read this post, here are a few things I loved eating as a kid:

  • Pancakes for dinner
  • Ritz Crackers with blue cheese dressing and stewed tomatoes for an appetizer.
  • My dad’s Army Stew
  • Chicken and gravy sandwiches
  • BBQ chicken made in the oven with Kraft bbq sauce (my sister and I would eat off all the skin after my parents went to bed)
  • Toad in the Hole
  • Fried Bologna
  • Bologna and ketchup sandwiches
  • Deviled Ham on toast


3 thoughts on “A One Page Argument For Using T.A.C.O.S. In Your Teaching

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