Looking for a way to engage students as they listen in class? Need an activity to keep hyperactive hands busy? Want more creative activities in your classroom? If you’re in need of any of these, then sketchnotes, or visual notetaking, is for you!
(Want a freebie to help students create their own sketchnotes? Grab this FREE Student Handout for Visual Notetaking!)
What Are Sketchnotes?
Sketchnotes, or the practice of taking visual notes, have been gaining popularity in the classroom as a way to engage students and enhance learning. They are a powerful tool for visual learners, helping them to better understand and retain information.
Traditionally, students take notes by writing down or summarizing the most important pieces of information. They might organize these ideas with bullet points or a hierarchy system, but the notes themselves are all text.
Sketchnotes, as you might imagine, is taking notes using visuals instead of words. Students use images or doodles to help organize and highlight information as they jot down their notes.
Why Use Visual Notetaking?
This makes sketchnoting particularly useful for visual students or ELLs who might struggle to write quickly enough to keep up with a lesson or take a while to process which ideas are most important.
There’s also plenty of research that shows that when students take visual notes, they are more likely to remember and understand the material. This is because visual cues, such as drawings and diagrams, help to anchor information in the brain.
It can also just be more engaging and fun for students who are sick of taking notes “the old-fashioned way.” Sketching is a form of active learning, which means that students are actively engaged in the process of understanding and retaining information.
This can lead to increased motivation and engagement in the classroom.
When To Use Sketchnotes in the ELA Classroom?
Sketchnotes can be helpful in any subject or grade level. They’re particularly useful in science where diagrams can help make complex concepts more understandable. But you can do a ton with visual notetaking in ELA too!
My favorite way to use visual notes is to keep students engaged while they listen to a text. Usually, I have reading questions to go along with an audiobook or large text that we’re studying.
However, sometimes I want my students to listen to a Ted Talk, watch a YouTube video, or listen to a podcast. These are often supplemental materials for which I don’t have any curriculum. Instead of creating a worksheet from scratch, I ask students to create sketchnotes.
This keeps students engaged with the ideas of the text as they listen instead of zoning out or pulling out their phones.
Another way to use sketchnotes is an assessment–especially when students may have read different materials.
For example, if you want to assess students’ understanding of their independent reading choice, you can ask them to create visual notes of the most important plot points, characters, themes, symbols, etc.
Or maybe you want students to read an informative article on their own. They can create their own sketchnotes to share with groups the next day instead of answering questions. The groups can compare which ideas or concepts they highlighted in their notes and discuss the differences between their visual notetaking.
Visual notes can even be presented in class or hung around the room for a gallery walk.
How To Get Students Started With Visual Notetaking
If students have never created visual notesbefore, they might be overwhelmed by the idea of drawing their notes.
Find some examples online to show students what sketchnotes can look like. Make sure to point out that there’s no “one right way” to create them.
I love showing students this video when introducing them to visual notetaking. Not only does it give a great overview, but it emphasizes that artistic talent is not required for great visual notetaking. It also gives students great strategies for using doodles to highlight information.
To help students remember these strategies, give them each a copy of this FREE Student Handout with sketchnote tips.
If students need more scaffolded directions, you can try having them do the following:
- Start with a clear layout. This can be as simple as dividing the page into sections or creating a grid.
- Use visual cues, such as arrows and symbols, to connect ideas and show relationships.
- Label and title important parts of the sketch
- Use colors to make it more visually appealing and easy to understand
Sketchnotes can be a powerful tool for enhancing learning in the classroom. They can also just be a great way to break up your classroom routine if it’s feeling a little monotonous.
They are beneficial for visual learners and can increase motivation and engagement. By encouraging students to find their own style and using visual cues, labeling, and colors, teachers can help students to better understand and retain information.