7/8/2021 2 Comments
A Step-By-Step Simplified Daily Guide
Whether you are new to the idea of visual note taking, or have tried it briefly in your own classroom and feel like you fumbled it, this guide is for you! This organized resource collection takes you from start to finish and cuts through all the confusion.
Let’s boil it down to the basics and then help you get started right away in your own classroom with some simple steps and free downloads. Along with the step-by-step guidance, I’ve included links to materials you can use in each phase as you introduce doodle notes to your class and then start seeing the benefits of this brain-based strategy.
Why It Works:
(DAY ONE just means the first day using this strategy, which may or may not be the first day of the school year.)
BEFORE CLASS DAY 1: Download the FREE Doodle Note Handbook. You can reference this later if you need some tips for implementing visual note taking in your classroom, or if you have time, you can read it now. It will come right to your inbox, and you can print it out or just save it for later on your computer. We will also send a few follow up emails with more resources and tips as you get started. We are here to support you as you dive into doodle notes with your own students!
CLASS DAY ONE: Grab the FREE “Engage Your Brain” doodle note set. This is the perfect introduction to this strategy. All you have to do is print it out and distribute it to your students. It is essentially a doodle note about doodle notes, so it will do two things at once. It will teach your students how to take visual notes while it also shows them why we are going to be doing this as much as possible in class.
Click the image for a downloadable PDF version of this guide with clickable links.
CLASS DAY TWO: Teach your first content-based doodle note lesson. Your first option for doing this is to either create or purchase a doodle note that is already customized to your lesson standard for today. If you’d like to browse pre-made doodle note pages, we’ve collected links to those over on the “Shop” page at doodlenotes.org for you. But if you’d rather create your own, we have templates available for you! Here is a starter pack of free templates, and here is a set of tips for using doodle note templates in your own classroom.
CLASS DAY THREE: Now that students have gotten their feet wet with this strategy, it’s time to share the details with the shareholders in their education! Parents and administrators often will start to ask questions when they see that you’re not only letting kids doodle and color in class, but you’re actually encouraging it! We’ve got you covered there too. Download our free handout to send home. The file also includes a presentation that covers the benefits and shares a little information about visual note taking. You can show it to students, save it for parent night, or pass it on to your principal or co-teachers.
In class today, use another prepared, guided doodle note lesson so your students can get used to this method slowly with plenty of teacher input/ guidance already on the page. We recommend that the first few weeks, you ease them into this strategy by offering pre-made guided visual note sheets or a template that organizes the visual note process for them, rather than expect them to be able to structure their own notes from scratch in a visual format yet.
CLASS DAY FOUR: Now that you have tried implementing doodle notes as a teacher, you probably have some questions. Take your curiosity (and maybe your frustrations if you feel like a few things didn’t go according to plan) over to our teacher help pages: (FAQ here, and "In the Classroom" page here). Also, if you have not joined yet, it’s a great time for you to come get some support in our free Facebook group. We share some ideas, answer questions, and offer a place to chat with other teachers using the doodle note method there.
Today in class, try either a new template from that free starter set, or another prepared, guided doodle note lesson. Don’t worry; as you and your students get the hang of this, you can eventually cut down on the prep work and allow them to have a bit more freedom. In fact, once your students have done a few weeks of guided doodle notes, you can even take away all the teacher input (less prep work!) and just hand them a blank doodle note template. Increase the student input as you go, and decrease the teacher-prepared structure. They will get better and better at creating their own visual notes once they have some practice.
Speaking of that, we have some support and tools for you to use once they get to that point as well! …
Click the image to get a PDF version with clickable links. This guide breaks it down to help you focus only on what you and your students are ready for at any given time as you build those basic visual note-taking skills.
Once you’ve gotten comfortable teaching with doodle notes using the “Week One” resources, the links we have included in the “Next Steps” section will be just what you need next.
This way, you won’t get overwhelmed. Take it one phase at a time. The tools and support that are linked in this document will lead you from the very first days of teaching with doodle notes all the way to expert level. The resources to support you along the way are organized here for you. Enjoy the journey, and have fun getting creative!
Ready to get started?
Click here to download the full PDF version of this guide with links to all the included files.
Take Time to Teach Specific Strategies for Mindfulness in your Classroom
If you teach teenagers, setting them up with strategies they can use forever will offer them a toolkit of mindful practices. In addition to the benefits that you’ll see in class, you’ll give them a surefire way to stay happier (and healthier) in the long run. In these times, it’s not uncommon for your students to feel anxious, stressed, or completely overwhelmed. Our job as teachers entails supporting our students in all possible ways, mental health included.
We know that students cannot focus on learning or higher-level thought processes until their basic and more urgent needs are met. You may notice that there are days lately when you need to take a step back and help support kids on another level that takes priority over educational goals and standards.
Now, possibly more than ever, it is so important to teach mindfulness and the valuable skill of regulating these difficult feelings and emotions.
That’s where practicing mindfulness comes in. Try transitioning into your class period with one of the strategies below, so you can start to meet your students’ basic needs before trying to tackle the lessons of the day. They may not be ready for them until they get a mindfulness break and a little mental health moment. Here’s how to get started:
Explain the Meaning of Mindfulness
First, students need to get familiar with the meaning of this practice. Simply put, being mindful is being aware and present in the moment, without allowing ourselves to get caught up in thoughts and worries about the past or future.
Teens are constantly worrying about things like what to wear to the school dance, their weekend plans, or what their peers thought of them in 2nd period. When they practice being mindful, they’re training their brains to calm their thoughts and feelings.
Then, when they encounter feelings of worry or distress, they can enter that place of calmness and mindfulness so much more quickly and easily.
Discuss the Benefits
According to Bupa, practicing mindfulness can even physically change parts of the brain. Taking time to be in the moment can reduce stress, improve creativity, and enhance memory.
These impacts on stress levels, memory, and brain health mean that having a powerful set of strategies could quite possibly be life-changing for children and teens. Simply taking a couple of minutes to reset when you feel distressed or out of control is incredibly beneficial. Teaching students these strategies can provide them with the valuable skills they will carry with them throughout their lives.
The Biggest Challenge
The biggest obstacle to teaching teens mindfulness is getting them to actually do it. It is so much easier said than done. You can guide and encourage your students until you’re blue in the face, but you can’t control what goes on in their heads. But by offering a few different options, you can at least help them practice and improve their mindful moments. Just sticking with it and devoting 5 minutes a day to one of the strategies below can set them up for success.
Set aside a few minutes of class for Mindfulness Activities:
We know you’re probably stretched for learning time as it is, but consider the benefits. Students are much more likely to start practicing mindfulness if they’re sitting in front of you and are being instructed to do so! Sometimes it seems more appealing simply because they view it as a "break" from the course content. Spend the first few minutes doing a short reflection instead of your usual entry quiz or warm-up. It will be time well spent and may sometimes take priority over the educational tasks or extra 5 minutes of review.
Set the tone in your classroom:
When practicing mindfulness in your classroom you don’t want students feeling the normal pressures of their typical learning environment. Turn off the lights. Put on calming meditation music. Really get them in a zen mood.
Side Note: Read this post to access our Calm playlist, as well as a bunch of other school-friendly playlists for the classroom!
Strategies for Teens
Here are some fun activities to try with your students:
1. Deep Breathing: This one is extremely simple. All you need is a minute or two. Sit with your eyes closed and both feet planted on the floor. Take deep breaths. Each time you inhale, think This is my in breath, and every exhale think, This is my out breath. You will start noticing your thoughts drifting to other things. Gently remind yourself to let it go and focus on your breathing. With practice, this will get easier and you will have fewer outside/distracting thoughts.
2. 4-4-4-4 Breathing: Simple and effective, this exercise takes deep breathing to the next level. Take a deep breath in, while counting to 4. Hold it for 4 seconds. Exhale for a count of 4. Finally, hold for 4 seconds before repeating again.
3. Five Things: Silently take notice of your 5 senses. What do you feel? What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you taste? What do you see? Take a mental note of each sense in the moment.
4. Heartbeat Counting: Set a timer for 3 or 4 minutes. Close your eyes, place your hand on your heart, and silently count each heartbeat.
5. Guided Meditation: Putting on an audio recording, a 3 minute retreat, or another prepared meditation will offer the guidance you and your students need. If you need some samples, check out these guided meditations.
Make Mindfulness an Obvious Choice
Once you've exposed your students to these 5 different strategies a few times and they are familiar with each one, you can start inviting them to choose their favorite. Or you can begin to encourage them to spend their own time doing this here and there outside of your classroom.
One day, try surprising your students. Instead of their typical homework assignment, they must complete at least one mindfulness activity of their choice for 5 minutes. Carving out time in their schedule might be the push they need to practice mindfulness at home.
Don’t forget about your own mental health too! Check out this post on how to relax as a teacher.
Two More Helpful Links:
If you'd like more tips and resources for teaching teenage students, get our emails for teachers of teens here. We're also chatting about teaching middle and high school students over here in our facebook group, "Let's Talk Teaching Teens.
Test Taking Music, Teen Dance Playlist, Active Brain Break Tunes, and More...
Let’s all just put on some music!!
You don’t need anyone to tell you- 2020 has been weird. Whether you’re doing distance learning, in-person teaching, or some sort of hybrid, it’s the perfect time to incorporate some tunes in your classroom. Classical, calming test-taking music, nature sounds, smooth jazz while students work in groups, or fun upbeat music to lift spirits while they enter the classroom (real or virtual), music is a powerful way to set the tone of your classroom.
It’s been proven that music can relax the mind or energize the body. According to the American Psychological Association, music improves the body's immune system function and reduces stress. In fact, listening to music was also found to be more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety before surgery (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23541122/). If you’re not already using music in your classroom- what are you waiting for?
Just imagine the relaxation benefits of doubling up and using both music AND doodle notes in your classroom!
So we built an awesome collection of classroom playlists! We’ve made sure all songs are appropriate for your students’ ears. All you have to do is follow Math Giraffe on Spotify, then click through our collection of playlists curated specifically for teens!
(Spotify is free for users, but it plays an ad every half hour. It allows you to skip songs 6 times an hour. There is also a premium option if you prefer that.)
Here is a rundown of the Math Giraffe playlists that you can use in your own classroom:
While students are taking a test, you want to do everything you can to set them up for success. The songs on this playlist do just that. Invigorating and thought-provoking, classical music helps kids open their minds and do their best. Science Daily tells us listening to classical music enhanced the activity of genes involved in dopamine secretion and transport, synaptic neurotransmission, learning and memory, and down-regulated the genes mediating neurodegeneration.
Everyone Calm Down
Music to calm the energy in the room is sometimes a necessity. This playlist is full of songs that will “bring it down a notch” if the kids are being disruptive or if there is any chaotic energy. It’s amazing how music can change the whole vibe.
Smooth and upbeat jazz can be excellent while students are working quietly. The music is simultaneously soothing and energizing. It helps with concentration and improves the overall energy in the room.
It feels like today’s top hits require the use of explicit content. It’s so hard for teachers to find content that won’t upset administration or parents, but also meet your students’ definitions of “cool”. Put on this playlist for dances for your teens! (Note: These lyrics are appropriate for most, but maybe not for all. All songs are appropriate for the radio, but might have slight innuendos. If you follow stricter guidelines, give these songs a listen before playing them for the kids.)
The title here is pretty self-explanatory, but this playlist can be a gamechanger for some teens. (Insider info: in Issue 2 of SnowDay Magazine, there’s information about the benefits of bringing nature into the classroom; nature sounds are one way we recommend.)
This set is for when your students have been sitting too long and you see them all foggy-eyed and you have to say, "Ok get up and let’s move and stretch for a minute!" Some of these songs guide them in movement, and some just make you want to dance with a lively, catchy beat.
Just for the Teachers
This is just a fun extra album with my Personal Favorites. These ones are for you to listen on your own time, like on your commute or while you're working after school!
To listen to all these awesome playlists, just follow Math Giraffe on Spotify!
What do your students like to listen to in the classroom?! If you have recommendations to share, or are wishing for another playlist, let me know in the comments.
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