Classroom Judgment: Semiotics at a Glance

Activities & Lessons


Social Justice & Student Voice



30 minutes.

Human Restoration Project CC-BY-SA

May 2023

An illustrated image of a document with link symbol.

printable / Google Document


Access variations of this resource:


required resources


An illustrated image of a DJ set with someone scratching.


download resource

No remixes are available yet for this resource!

submit a remix

Make an edit? Your input and designs create human-centered practices which fuel our movement for change. Upon approval, your credited remix will be published under a Creative Commons license.

This teacher-focused activity centers on judgment through semiotics: study of signs and symbols and how they convey meaning in various contexts, including language, art, culture, and communication.

video overview

overview & purpose

Semiotics refers to the way we create, interpret, and understand meaning.

We’re interpreting signs, which include everything from literal physical signs and marketing campaigns to one’s facial expression or clothing. Our social, cultural, and political backgrounds inform how we judge and discern the information of signs. This lesson analyzes how students could interpret teacher signs through the language they communicate day-to-day.

No items found.

educator notes

lesson / activity

Wow, I really like your outfit today!

It’s often hard to tell what exactly this statement means. Depending on how our day is going, what we know about the person saying it, and where we’re at, this could mean...
• Wow, I really like your outfit today! -> Fact: You have a really awesome outfit.
• Wow, I really like your outfit today! -> As Value: Your outfit suits you.
• Wow, I really like your outfit today! -> Ironic: Your outfit looks awful.
• Wow, I really like your outfit today! -> Lie: It really isn’t an awesome outfit.

In the same way, the signs teachers communicate to students are interpreted in many different ways. And oftentimes, these signs make students feel worse about themselves. They feel judged, demeaned, or hurt by how teachers perceive them, even if a teacher has good intentions.

In the following images, we’re presenting common signs that students receive on a daily basis. For each, determine:
• Imagine yourself as a student, what is your first impression of this sign? What does it make you think?
• Imagine yourself as a different student, what’s another way this could be interpreted?
• Imagine yourself as the person who created the sign. What were they trying to communicate?
• How could the sign (or policy) be changed or altered so that more people interpret it in a positive way?

Each is an example from publicly available sources, redacted and slightly modified to protect teacher identities.

Late and Makeup Assignment Policies: Discussion postings that are submitted late will be marked down depending on the tardiness of the submission. Essays will be marked down one letter grade per day that they are late. Additional resources to other students that are submitted after the chapter due dates will not be credited. There are no make-ups for the quizzes unless you have a valid excuse and submit proof to "" (death certificate, traffic ticket, court appearance slip, etc). Please contact "" if accommodations need to be made.
4 bathroom / hall passes will be given at the start of the semester. Unused passes can be turned in at the end of the semester for extra credit.
Cell phones must be placed in the caddy at the front of the room and at the beginning of the class. Earbuds must not be in evidence unless we are doing an activity that requires them. Computers are packed away when we are not using them in class.
Discipline and Tardies: Positive behavior will be encouraged and rewarded through a "Cha-Ching!" approach that focuses attention on making positive deposits in relationship bank accounts rather than negative withdrawals. Negative behavioral choices will be handled as quickly and appropriately as possible. Tardies will be handled according to "". For more information, please visit ""."
An illustrated rocket.

similar resources

An illustrated play button.