Visual Note-Taking Strategies for the Classroom
Visual note taking has so many benefits for students, and I feel like I am constantly getting more excited about this brain-friendly method! I seem to find more and more research-based reasons to dive deeper into graphic notes each day!
But there can be such a steep learning curve before your students can become competent at unstructured sketch notes.
To help students get past this hurdle and get the benefits of focus and retention right away, I decided a few years ago to create a new unique type of visual note-taking (doodle notes).
Originally, I blended ideas from my infographics with strategies from visual note-taking, because I felt that sketch notes were too hard for most students to just immediately jump into.
The “doodle note” method offers the same brain benefits while being much more accessible to students. The goal is to provide a teacher-created print & go page with features that allow for the brain benefits listed here:
Regardless of the type of visual notes you implement, there are SO many benefits! Here are a few:
- Research has shown focus is improved
- Both the left hemisphere and right hemisphere of the brain are engaged
- Cross-lateral connections improve learning
- More of the input actually transfers to long-term memory
- Dual-Coding theory shows that when we blend text & graphics, retention increases
According to Sketch Note Army, “Sketchnotes are purposeful doodling while listening to something interesting. Sketchnotes don't require high drawing skills, but do require a skill to visually synthesize and summarize via shapes, connectors, and text. Sketchnotes are as much a method of note taking as they are a form of creative expression.”
With sketch notes, students do not have any guidance. The lecture is purely auditory, and students are responsible for organizing their note page and designing all graphics themselves. You can set aside a few weeks at the beginning of the school year to teach the sketchnote process if you have time. Then, students just begin with a blank sheet of paper. You teach your lesson; students fill their page with shapes, doodles, and notes. There is a lot of freedom for creativity.
Most students have to learn and understand all of the material before going ahead and completing a well organized sketchnote. It’s really challenging for most kids to do anything other than a sequential outline before they can really “see” the big picture.
If you immediately jump into it, it’s information overload; your students don’t retain the new material.
What Makes a Doodle Note?
- visual analogies specific to the lesson material
- graphics that operate as memory triggers for the content
- images that blend with text to optimize retention through dual coding
- a strategic layout of guided notes organized in advance by the teacher
- embedded interactive student tasks (sketching with lesson content, filling in blanks, captioning, fancy lettering with key terms, labeling graphics, classifying, writing within an image, color-coding, etc.)
- space for student input and interaction
- opportunities to add color, embellishments, lettering, and doodles
- creative combinations of text and images that are designed for brain-based learning
To me, doodle notes are a more user-friendly option for the typical classroom. The reason I created this alternative method was to develop a strategy that offers the benefits of sketch notes without the steep learning curve. Now, sketching "skills" and the desire to create from scratch are not required! Students are not as overwhelmed.
Obviously, it depends on your own students, but I have found that they are SO MUCH easier to use. You can dive into a new topic or revisit one from the past, and your students will absorb the information.
Because students don’t have the pressure of structuring a completely blank page, they can maximize the benefits of the connection of both brain hemispheres. They still do sketches, creative lettering, coloring, embellishments, interactive tasks, and more.
This way, kids get all the advantages that come from blending linguistic input and graphic input.
The neural pathways that convert this learning into long-term memory are fully activated.
Doodle notes do require some effort on your part (Not much though!) Check out Doodle Note Club below to make creating Doodle Notes as easy as can be. You can even just use templates! Or check out pre-made sets for your content area here: Shop doodle notes by subject
If the idea of Doodle Notes is intriguing to you, try this free Doodle Notes download! It’s the perfect way to get your feet wet without investing any time or money. Then, I’m sure you’ll be hooked.
To dive deeper, check out the Doodle Note club membership, which includes templates, graphics, video training, and more. I offer everything you need to learn how to create doodle notes to use in your own classroom.
It's the perfect intro to the doodle note method, and helps students get really invested in the process. This leads to more conscious effort to connect visuals with the information. They end up really getting excited to see how much more they are remembering from each lesson when it comes to test time!
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