I sat through an hour long session on slide design the other day just to ask a single question and the answer I got was CRAP. I wasn’t shocked. I expected CRAP. You see in the world of slide design there’s just one common acronym to help people with slide design… and it’s CRAP.
While I love Robin Williams, I own several of her books on design, there is no way I’m asking my students to make sure their slides are crappy. CRAP is a poor acronym to use in a learning situation, but it’s not alone. There’s a virtual alphabet soup in the world of education.
Now these are all important topics and I’ll grant you that shortening them up saves some time with typing, but if you are going to use an abbreviation, an acronym, or an initialism in a learning environment it would be great if you could use one that helps people remember what it means.
I know the LangWitches meant well when they decided to turn KWL into KWHLAQ, but seriously… how am I supposed to remember that? And they aren’t the only ones:
It’s almost like people don’t care if anyone remembers them, but they still want them to remember them and that’s a big problem in education. It’s the Ivory Tower model of teaching and it’s unacceptable.
I know this thing. I’m going to tell you this thing but it’s up to YOU to learn and remember this thing.
We are not pez dispensers. We are teachers. That means we need to help people LEARN and then USE what they learned. Giving them a pile of letters isn’t helping at all. If person creating the unusable acronym doesn’t spend any time trying to create a useable acronym that’s memorable then that’s just lazy. Teachers are driven crazy by lazy students. I hear them talking about it in the lounge on the time, but here we are handing out students SOAPSTONE and giving out SAMR during PD and doing NOTHING about it. So let’s fix this. Let’s grab a MIT.
- Memorable [Make it a word]
- Insight [Make the word have to do with what you are trying to do]
- Tiny [Keep it short]
Here are the steps:
- Write down every word you can think of that has to do with the process or topic
- Underline, circle, star, or highlight the keywords that don’t repeat.
- See if you can make a MIT word out of those, if not go to step 4.
- See which letters are missing to create the MIT word and open up the thesaurus and look for synonyms for your keywords that have the initial letter that you need. DO NOT accept just any old word. When I was creating MIT I wanted to use the word WIN but the only word starting with the letter N that means tiny is “nano” and we are NOT going to use the word nano in our acronym. It needs to be a common word that everyone understands. If you are still stuck then move to the next step.
- ASK FOR HELP! Ask teachers, ask friends, ask students. People love solving puzzles. After I discarded WIN, I moved onto WIT, as in use WIT in your acronyms, but it wasn’t catchy enough so I asked a group of friends and voila!
I’m serious about asking students to help, look at what a former FVHS student created in just a few minutes. It’s not a perfect MIT, but it’s way easier to remember what she came up with.
Here are some examples of what I use in the classroom or used to use:
- SCOUT (close reading strategy for ELA)
- SQUID (students diving deep on a subject)
- MUNI (taking your learning on a trip somewhere new)
- TACOS (an updated and tasty lesson plan template)
In the grand scheme of things, creating horrible acronyms is probably #23,546 for a teacher, but I think we can do better and part of doing better is just knowing about the problem. As G.I. Joe said “knowing is half the battle.”
So the next time you put together a new idea for a presentation, some professional development, or to use with your students- take the time to grab the right MIT and I’m sure you’ll create something catchy.
Feature image credit goes to Brian Durst. Thanks.