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These Notes Look a Little Sketchy - Education Impression

These Notes Look a Little Sketchy

Earlier this month I wrote about thinking about note-taking differently in my classes this year. That post shot to the top of my “posts most read” list since starting this blog about year ago. I’m not sure why it has been so popular. When I shared the described differences with my students, they weren’t clamoring for more information. They had the same “ok, we’ll take notes if we have to” looks on their faces that they typically have. Maybe one reason the post gained so much traction was my brief discussion of sketchnoting.

Sketchnoting is hot right now. There is no doubt about that. If you are following this trend, you know that sketchnoting is like purposeful doodling. At least that’s how I described it to my students. If you haven’t seen much sketchnoting, imagine taking notes in pictures and images, using words and pictures equally or even pictures dominating over words. My first sketchnote, such that it is, is pictured above.

I’m not a pictures thinker. That’s not to say that I don’t picture things; I do, vividly. When driving somewhere new, I picture where I am going. As I drive in to school, I picture my lesson in my mind. While reading or learning, I picture the ideas. When teaching, though, I am more likely to describe things than draw them because that’s what I prefer as a learner. Still, with so much being written about making thinking visible, and the undeniable statistics that we are such a visual society, I know that this is an area where I could do some wandering and exploring.

So, as I started this school year, I have tried to take opportunities when I am a learner to sketchnote what I am experiencing. I started with our opening convocation delivered by our school superintendent and an amazing student at our school. Here is that sketchnote:


This week I attended two days of inservice. Day 1 was an extension of our district’s focus on Marzano’s work. We explored ways to use technology to enhance the art and science of teaching. Here is that sketchnote:


Inservice Day 2 was a thinking deeper about Marzano strategies day. There were many valuable insights that day, but I tried to save just the ones that resounded most with me. Here is that sketchnote:


And here’s what I can say about sketchnoting so far:

  • I thought some of these looked pretty bad, but I have received many compliments, including this one (may favorite):
  • While sketchnoting, I find that I have to pay closer attention to the activity at hand. It is much harder to multitask, check my email, write tomorrow’s quiz, and so on, if I am focused on recording the ideas in an artful way.
  • On the other hand, sometimes I am working so hard to make something look just the way I want it to, or at least as nice as it can with my cheapie stylus, that I miss something important like directions or reflections.
  • I need to use fewer words and more pictures.
  • I also need a better stylus.
  • It’s a cool experience to try to encapsulate the ideas into just a few words and pictures. It’s a great prioritizing experience and I am learning a lot about my takeaways by doing it.
  • I have attended a lot of inservices where I walked away with a packet from the power point. That packet sits on my desk for a while until I eventually file it somewhere and probably never look at it again. A sketchnote is more interesting to look at and takes up no space in my files or on my desk.

If you have been toying with giving it a try, I recommend it. I am only 4 sketchnotes into this, but I am going to keep working on this during this year. And to celebrate, I might just buy a fancy stylus tonight!

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