But, I've also had quite a few questions about the best ways to use them in the classroom, and requests for tips when trying them out. So I wanted to put together a post to help guide people who are getting started (but beware, you are very likely to become a doodle addict once you start!)
I'm going to kick it off with some of my top strategies for actually using doodle notes, but I would love if those who are enjoying them in your own classroom would jump in. Please leave a comment so I can add to the list!
If we can all share different ways they have worked, or tips we develop as we go, it would really benefit everyone! I'd love to hear from you all.
First of All...
There is no way to write a one-size-fits-all doodle manual. They are extremely flexible, and the best way to use them really depends on your own students and your classroom culture.
Using the same page can go completely differently in your 1st period class than in your 2nd period class. Some classes will take it and run with it, and some will walk through it right alongside you as you fill it in together like a whole class graphic organizer.
There are really no "right ways" or "wrong ways" to teach with doodle notes. Be flexible, because you'll be amazed how that one kid who has never been engaged in math class is suddenly focused, excited, and begging for more!
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.
Review the brain benefits of crossing the midline in these posts:
The study in which people listened to a boring phone conversation showed that the group who was doodling while listening was able to remember all the people that the little old lady was going to invite to her party, what was on her menu, etc. much better than those in the room without doodling supplies.
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, to maximize that effect, there should be focused, active teaching occurring during the doodle note lesson.
Use a Teacher Copy
The easiest way to do this is to project/display a blank copy of the same doodle page that you hand out. Then, complete your "teacher copy" as you give notes. You can expand past it and add notes on the board, talk through the lesson, and lecture as you normally would.
Even if you keep your note page "bare bones" and just fill in the blanks, your main job is to talk and model the concept and examples, just as you normally would.
Students will have plenty of time while you talk and explain to embellish their pages.
Your teacher copy can look as boring as this answer key. You won't need to model the doodling and coloring. That's where their own creativity comes in. All those little right brain hemispheres will automatically turn on and get excited to make the page their own as soon as you let them know they are allowed.
Show a Sample
However, some will need just a little guidance, or official permission to do whatever they want on their own page. You really do want to encourage and allow personalization and creativity.
So, the first few times you use a doodle note approach, show a student sample just briefly to give them the idea. I include a photo in each one that I create so that you can use it as an example until your students get the hang of it and develop their own styles.
Depending on your students, you may want to forget the lecture approach, and let your students complete these as a study guide or graphic organizer using a textbook as a reference.
If you choose to try this strategy, be sure to have students work in pairs, so that the conversation is still happening. This way, you can get a variety of input going into their brains while they complete the page and fill in the information.
They can work together to decide what key information should go where. This will work if you are comfortable with variation. They may not write exactly what you would have written on the board, but you can walk around and check that they have the concept, key ideas, vocabulary, and examples all correct.
This method allows a little more freedom for the students, but may not work for all classes.
When it is time to cut off the lecture or the lesson, be sure to stop. Just as you would have 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.
Even myself, I still notice that I can remember something better if I was doodling while I heard it. A few times recently, I've said something like "oh yeah, I do remember when you said that in our meeting. It was while I was drawing little triangles around the words "Singapore Math." Students create the same brain triggers by doing these pages. During a test, they'll think "oh, right, I remember making the "s" really small and the "t" really tall to fit the word "sector" inside the circle just right.
The Visuals & Graphics Will Work for Themselves
Really, you can't go wrong. The visual connections are built in. Doodle notes are like a twist on a graphic organizer. They have the benefits that a basic graphic organizer has, plus more, and those benefits will come automatically.
It's all about shapes, layout, and graphics. These act as brain triggers. Students will visualize the page, plus they will have formed connections in their minds that will help them retain the information.
Since math is usually left-brained, and any creativity that they put into the page (coloring, doodling, fancy lettering) is right-brained, the two hemispheres of the brain will be working together. By crossing the midline of their brains (the corpus callosum), they will automatically maximize their focus, learning, and retention of the content.
Working Document / Reference Sheet
One of the most unexpected benefits that comes along with this teaching strategy is how proud the students are of their note sheets!
They will pull it out over and over again to use as a reference. (Which they should be doing with a standard notebook as well, but often don't.) Instead of reminding them to pull out their notes when they get stuck, you'll see them jump to grab their doodle note sheet so they can show it off and add to it.
Encourage this! Let their note pages become working documents that are always on hand as graphic organizers or study guides.
They love to make these their own. So don't sweat it too much as you implement them. Just print it out. When you hand your kids these pages, the benefits will happen automatically. They will get excited and engage with the page in all the right ways.
If you are ready to give it a try, this post will lead you to two different sets of free doodle notes.
More tips and specifics
Use this link to hear from teachers using the doodle note method in their classrooms:
Doodle Notes in The Classroom - Tips, Tricks, and Testimonials
Video Training: Teaching with Doodle Notes
To support you in implementing the doodle note method in your own classroom, I've created a video tutorial on teaching with visual notes. These strategies will help you get started right away. To get some of the resources shown, you can access my free toolkit here.
Teach the Benefits
Advanced: For True Doodle Note Addicts
If you have already gotten into your doodle groove, first of all, please leave a comment below to share any experience you have had in your own classroom. We all need your tips! Tell us any little tricks, benefits you have noticed, or approaches you have tried.
Then, you may want to check out a little more on sketchnoting, hand lettering, icon drawing, and more to get your students (or yourself) some more doodle skills! I've got some links in my "Doodle Addict" pinterest board that you may enjoy! Check it out.
To Learn More & Get Started with Doodle Notes:
To Read Next:
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