Doodle Notes for the Paperless Classroom
Can’t Print Your Doodle Notes?
Even in a school that is not tech-based, there are days when problems arise and you just can’t make enough copies of doodle note sheets or other handouts for your students. Maybe you didn’t have a chance to run to the copier, you’ve reached your school’s printing limits, or your printer, once again, ran out of ink. We’ve all been there.
A great solution is using visual notes in a digital format. I’ve rounded up all of my tips and tricks to make doodle note-taking in a digital format as effective as possible!
(DocHub app used with visual note template as background)
Benefits of Visual Notes by Hand
First, a disclaimer: I strongly believe in doing notes by hand, on paper, whenever possible! (See this post on digital classroom vs. math by hand.)
But of course, there are times when digital lessons can be wonderful and practical. So the goal here is to do the best you can to maximize the brain benefits in any situation.
Visual notes in a digital format can give you a break from making copies, wasting paper, and using up expensive printer ink. Some days this format is more desirable, convenient, or just plain necessary for a successful class!
However, you should note there is a lot of research out there that shows notes are so much better when taken by hand, rather than digitally. Scientific American tells us that even though people generally type faster than write, more notes aren’t necessarily better.
In three separate studies that compare students taking notes by hand vs. students taking notes by laptop, they found those who wrote out their notes had a stronger conceptual understanding and were more successful in applying and integrating the material.
So, while there’s no doubt there are clear benefits to digital notes, keep in mind this format should be used in moderation. Students get the most benefits from taking notes by hand!
(Inkflow app used with background template from this set)
A friend of mine, Leah at leahcleary.com, provided an excellent post about how to make your worksheets work digitally. It’s actually much simpler than you may think! Here are the steps to get your doodle note sheets into a digital format.
You need to follow a few very simple steps:
Then, with their devices, students have easy access to the note pages (or worksheet). With DocHub, they can draw, write, highlight, and even insert text or images on their note sheet!
(Decimals doodle note set used with DocHub)
Student-created graphic notes
Another cool way to avoid printing or copying doodle pages is to let your students create their own graphic notes on an app on their device. The key is uploading a PDF of the doodle note backgrounds or templates for your students, that they can add to a note-taking app. There are many apps out there, and I have not played long with all of these yet, but here are a few to try:
This app allows you to use an interactive pen to markup any PDF, while still feeling natural through pressure. Change aspects of the pen quickly with the touch of a button on the pen sidebar.
Inkflow Visual Notebook
This free app provides a space for your students to upload images/graphics and create fantastic sketch notes with smooth writing tools.
A nice feature that I like about Inkflow is the ability to select an area and move it around. This can be so helpful in creating visual notes – Students can actually re-organize the page as they go, to improve the visual layout and flow! This helps overcome some of the challenges of student-created sketchnotes. One downside to this app is that you have to pay for colors :(
(Doodle note background template used with Inkflow app)
Although not free, this app is fairly inexpensive ($7.99) and provides the best platform for your students to create visual note pages! On this app students can annotate on PDFs, write on the app like real paper, search handwritten notes, and even convert handwriting to text.
This app is $5.99, and allows students to effortlessly create beautiful notes on their device. Your students can take unlimited visual notes with this app by handwriting notes and marking up PDFs.
Try adding templates as backgrounds to make the process easier.
Tips for using doodle notes
If you’re looking for some great tips to better implement doodle notes in your lessons, keep reading! Here are some excellent tips for implementation:
1. Show a Sample
To maximize the benefits of doodle notes, you should allow students to fully express their personality and creativity. That being said, students may need a little bit of guidance to help get them started, especially if you’ve just recently introduced doodle notes. The perfect way to guide them is showing a completed sample of the doodle notes sheet when you begin the lesson.
2. Keep Research in Mind
Be sure to keep the research in mind as you implement doodling in math class. Keep your focus on the brain benefits as you guide your students through these.
Of course, just by coloring or doodling, they will get some visual connections and will activate both sides of the brain, but to maximize the benefits, this should ideally occur while also getting verbal input.
Scientists learned that the act of coloring or doodling requires just enough focus to keep you from zoning out, but not enough to actually distract you. So, in order to maximize this, there should be focused, active teaching occurring during the doodle note lesson.
3. Limit Time
When it is time to cut off the lecture or the lesson, be sure to stop. Stop just as you would with regular notes. Move on. Students who want to add to it can do so later during free time or at home.
Do not add class time for just coloring. That is not the purpose. If students do want to color, embellish, add a million little doodle spirals, that's fine. But once the learning and teaching portion is over, the brain benefits start dwindling. Coloring the corners is not the valuable use of class time that completing the note sheet is.
Guide your class to doodle as they fill the page, during the moments that they are still listening and learning. Let them do fancy lettering of a vocabulary word to help it stick in their minds. Let them color ideas that go together using the same pattern. Show them how to focus in on the visual triggers that will stick in their brain.
To read more of my tips, visit How to use Doodle Notes in Math Class!
I am continually impressed by all of the teachers in Doodle Note Club! I am constantly hearing great ideas from other teachers about how they implement Doodle Notes. Here are a few of my favorites:
To read more about how other teachers are implementing doodle pages, go to In the Classroom!
To Read Next (on Your Visual Note-Taking Journey) -
Engaging Bulletin Board Ideas
Spruce up your room and set the mood for Math Madness this March! I’ve rounded up a few of my favorites and linked the creators to spark your creativity.
Keep in mind, you can always add a basketball themed problem of the week (or day!) to the board to make sure there is an aspect of learning; you want to make the best use of your time decorating. Twist a word problem or challenge problem from your current lesson in the textbook and just add a basketball theme to it! You won't even have to switch the numbers or answers from the book if you use a little creativity to re-write it.
The games last all throughout March; the final four games are on March 31st and the National Championship is on April 2nd. Consider using this bracket above or printing out this gameday schedule for your board and assign students to fill in the teams that are yet to be announced!
You may want to set up a bracket like the second bulletin board that actually tracks student progress instead of the basketball games. Have students participate in a math tournament like my End of Course review tournaments, and let the teams compete in this way instead of on the graph!
Tom DeRosa shares a great Probability Activity using the NCAA’s data since 1979. Students find the probability of a given seed winning the tournament, as a fraction and percent.
Then, they use these numbers to answer a few questions about probability. They discuss the difference between experimental and theoretical probability. Using real-life data about basketball makes the work relevant to their lives!
March Madness Trashketball
This FREE download brings real-life fractions and decimals practice and lets your students get in on the basketball action! They get to “shoot hoops” by shooting crumpled up paper into the trash bin.
They keep track of the shots they make versus the shots they take, and they use this data to practice fractions, statistics, and decimals!
STEM Idea: Basketball Tower Challenge
If you need a STEM lesson idea, look no further! Try this fun idea by Sarah Wiggins at More than a Worksheet. All you need is newspaper, masking tape, and a few basketballs. Have students work in pairs or small groups to build a newspaper tower that can support a basketball. This challenge sounds simple, but is actually very tricky! Students will definitely be challenged.
Before students create their tower, have them create a hypothesis and introduce the STEM engineering design process with the free graphic organizers she provides.
Algebraic Expressions Basketball Game
This game allows middle schoolers (Pre-Algebra) to play a basketball game practicing with expressions!
Or, this similar game helps students practice solving equations. Track their points using a bracket to run your own tournament throughout the month!
Geometry in Basketball
This presentation offers a lesson for your Geometry students, showing how geometric principles play into every aspect of the sport.
Let kids explore it, then write up a few questions using the information they discovered. They can swap with a partner and use the presentation to try to answer the other set of questions!
To Read Next:
The Many Proven Learning Benefits, and How to Get The Brain Effects in Your Own Classroom
Attention, teachers everywhere! It turns out laughter actually is the best medicine! A fascinating Huffington Post article shares that a study at California’s Loma Linda University reveals that laughter provides lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and better memory recall abilities.
So, we know laughter is beneficial for adults, but do you know the wide range of benefits humor and laughter can have on your students and their learning?
Take a minute and think about the lessons you remember most from middle and high school. If you’re like me, these lessons are memorable because you were laughing; there was humor somehow involved.
According to Edutopia, “Humor activates the brain's dopamine reward system, stimulating goal-oriented motivation and long-term memory, which means that humor can improve retention in students of all ages.”
Simply put, when something is funny, students have a better chance at remembering!
Humor is inherently social. When someone tells a funny joke or story, others likely want to repeat it. When there is humor in the classroom, students are more apt to socialize and build relationships with each other.
Similarly, laughter creates a bond. If your entire class is giggling or laughing over some humor, they’re forming a cohesive bond and becoming one unit.
Reduce math anxiety and stress
Math anxiety and stress are huge issues for our students in today’s classrooms. Humor is a standout solution.
According to the American Psychological Association, in his book, "Humor as an Instructional Defibrillator," Ron Berk, PhD, suggests that humor's primary psychological role is as an emotional response or buffer to relieve physical stress. Moreover, laughter has been shown to stimulate a physiological effect that decreases stress hormones such as serum cortisol, dopac and epinephrine.
How to Incorporate Humor
If you’re interested in adding some humor to your classroom, be sure to keep these tips in mind:
1) Keep it age-appropriate
Some teachers walk a fine line between using humor appropriate for their students and humor more appropriate for adults. There are many benefits to humor, but it is not worth an upset parent or student. Also along these lines, try to avoid sarcasm or other humor that could potentially be hurtful to a student. The biggest priority is always maintaining values and respect!
2) Don’t overdo it
It’s important to ensure that your students respect you and take you seriously, and that is not going to happen if you are joking around the whole class.
You need to make sure you’re comfortable. It not only helps how you feel as a teacher, but it puts your students at ease.
3) Think About Timing
One of the reasons why humor is so beneficial is that it grabs attention. Consider using humor right at the start of class or when you can see your students are becoming distracted.
Making jokes or telling funny stories at the right times really maximizes the benefits of humor.
Ways to Incorporate Humor
Now, you may be someone who naturally has jokes rolling off the tongue all day long; or, you may be wondering how to achieve these benefits of humor without completely altering your personality. If you are part of the latter, consider implementing these simple ways to add humor into your classroom on a regular basis!
Memes as part of warm-up activities
A quick and simple way to add some giggles each day is to add a meme that's related to your specific subject on warm-up activities. If you pull up the warm-up activity on the smartboard, simply paste a meme above the words beforehand.
Pinterest is full of great memes for any subject. Simply search “funny [your subject] memes” and you will get endless options!
Sharing funny stories or anecdotes in your life are a great way to add humor. Students love to hear more about your life, so it’s easy to build teacher-student relationships and make lessons a little more light-hearted.
Another way to add humor to class is by selectively adding funny components to word problems on tests or quizzes. Consider using students’ names or their favorite characters if the word problem involves people (again always keeping it positive and respectful, of course!).
Math comic of the week
Consider setting up an area on your wall or bulletin board for a math comic of the week. Posting a math comic each week will give your students something to look forward to when they walk in the room each Monday!
Pinterest is the best place to go for the most variety. Here is a Pinterest board for Math Humor that I started upon learning some of this research. I'll add to it as I find more, so follow the board for more to come later!
Surprised or interested to learn this research? Pass the article on to a friend, and enter your email address below to get more posts, updates, resources, and more delivered right to your inbox:
To Read Next:
Click to set custom HTML