Finally! One-pager success!

Plus: the idea that finally made one-pagers work for my class

One more try. That’s right. In December, I decided to give one-pager graphic essays one more try.

In case you’re unfamiliar with one-pagers… visit Spark Creativity for a complete explanation and also some awesome one-pager templates.

One-pagers, in a nutshell, offer a way for students to demonstrate their learning from a text in a more creative format than the traditional written essay. Students can fill up a page with drawings, text excerpts, doodles, and other graphic elements to show their understanding of a text. One-pagers, and especially the more structured templates Spark Creativity also offers, can be used by students to show their knowledge of:

  • theme
  • symbolism
  • figurative language
  • setting
  • characterization
  • and other literary tools used by the author in the particular text.

Of course, one-pagers also encourage students to show how they personally connect to a book, including how the text is relevant to their own lives and/or current world events.

Markers are used to make one-pagers.
Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash

During the 2019-20 school term, I attempted one-pagers twice, once in both the fall and spring. However, I was less than impressed with the results. I just didn’t receive quality, in-depth work from my students. The work was messy; the drawings were bare-bones. The necessary critical thinking and creativity just wasn’t evident in their one-pagers. In short, it was disappointing…

…especially since I knew success with one-pagers was possible.

After all, other teachers regularly utilize them in their classes and experience awesome results. I’ve often looked with envy at the colorful, well-developed one-pagers created by other teachers’ students in some of the private Facebook groups I follow.

But, for me, one-pagers had fizzled. Twice.

My disappointing results could have been due to the simple fact that the first time for any new project or assignment is always a challenge. Heck, I struggled with writer’s workshop the first few times I attempted it as well, but I stuck with it and now I wouldn’t give it up. Ever. My experience with one-pagers had been pretty much the same.

Or maybe students perceived the one-pager as an unchallenging project. Thinking back, it may have seemed like an easy way out of an essay… as in Okay, if I just fill up the page with a few pictures and a quote, I’ll be able to get this done in no time. (Sure enough, some students flew through their one-pagers, with some finishing in about thirty minutes!)

Who’s to say why one-pagers weren’t working in my classroom? Still, considering all the potential that the creative project offered, I wasn’t ready to quit.

I just wasn’t ready to give up on the idea.

So last month, as my reading class wrapped up their unit on Frederick Douglass’ Narrative, I gave one-pagers another go.

I provided this box of crayons, markers, and even a Frederick Douglass stamp for students to use to make their one-pagers.
I provided this big box of art supplies (including my nifty Frederick Douglass rubber stamp!) for students to use to create their one-pagers.

As I had done in the past, I made sure to…

  • provide mentors (also from Spark Creativity)
  • supply a well-stocked box of markers, crayons, and colored pencils
  • require students to use lots of color and to fill up the page
  • hype the artistic side of the project to my students comfortable with drawing, while stressing at the same time that the one-pager is not primarily an art project

Also, I supplied my awesome Frederick Douglass rubber stamp (from Stamp Yo Stuff on Etsy) and helped students as needed, even suggesting ways to sneakily add in the “e” they left out of Frederick. (Yes, that happened!)

But this time, I tried a new idea that radically improved the quality of our one-pagers:

(drumroll, please)

I enlarged it.

Why, you ask? Well, as I was laying out the art supplies, I remembered last year pondering if the 8-1/2″ by 11″ size was simply too small for some of my older, adult-sized students to handle.

Heck, if some of my football players could barely fit in their desks, no wonder they had trouble adding pictures and text and whatnot to those small-ish boxes!

One-pager templates can be enlarged to help students.
The original sized template is at left in the photo above. I enlarged it by 145% onto 11″ x 17″-inch copy paper. Using the larger paper made this project work better for my students.

Maybe, I thought, one-pagers would work better if the paper was larger.

And the results were outstanding… finally.

It’s crazy how something so simple makes such a difference! The larger size allows students more space to get more creative. For example:

  • They can add more text.
  • They can write more about the connections they make to the text.
  • They can use the extra space to write larger and more neatly. (It seems that the extra space is more forgiving and encourages kids to spend more time on their drawings and doodles.)
  • They can even use the 8-1/2″ x 11″ templates to plan out their ideas before executing their final one-pager drafts on the 11″ x 17″ paper. (Several of my kids did this without my prompting them to!)

Whether you have students use plain paper or the templates from Spark Creativity, stock up on 11″ x 17″-inch paper the next time you do one-pagers. It doesn’t have to be poster board or even construction-weight stock. Copy paper is fine.

If you do use the templates from Spark Creativity, enlarge them to 145% to nearly fill up the page. Any remaining margin will work great for side notes or brief explanations your students may need to make to explain their ideas.

As you can see below, I’ve included several one-pagers created by my students last month. These one-pagers were created over the course of about three 50-minute class periods.

Obviously, some of the one-pagers below are stronger than others in textual evidence and in idea development. Still, I’m excited about the overall quality of each of these and know that at last… the one-pager can be successful in my classroom!

One-Pager example made by a high school student for Frederick Douglass' Narrative.
As with all the one-pagers shown in this post, this paper measures 11″ x 17″. The larger size made this project more successful for my students.
One-Pager example made by a high school student for Frederick Douglass' Narrative.
Look at all the words this student was able to put on this one-pager!
One-Pager example made by a high school student for Frederick Douglass' Narrative.
This one-pager features my amazing Frederick Douglass rubber stamp! It was a gift that I believe was found on
One-Pager example made by a high school student for Frederick Douglass' Narrative.
It’s a great feeling when you see students willingly spending solid blocks of time on a project!
One-Pager example made by a high school student for Frederick Douglass' Narrative.
I appreciate how this student spent a lot of time explaining all the connections she made to the text.

Yep, I’m a big fan of the one-pager. And I’m definitely glad I stuck with them, giving them three opportunities to succeed.

Marilyn Yung

If you’ve had trouble in the past with one-pagers, I suggest that you try it again, but this time, enlarge the templates or paper size.

Hopefully, that’ll do the trick and your students will amaze you with their creativity and insight.

Thanks for reading!

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Published by Marilyn Yung

Writes | Teaches | Not sure where one ends and the other begins.

9 thoughts on “Finally! One-pager success!

  1. I love the connection to “Hurricane” from Hamilton and how they spent the time to write out the lyrics to enhance the image.

  2. I’ve had very similar issues with One Pagers, yet desperately wanted them to work. This is a brilliant idea!!! Thank you – I can’t wait to give this a try when students return full-time to campus!

    1. So glad to hear that you’ll try the larger size! And it’s good to know I’m not the only one who struggled with these! Thanks for commenting!

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