Visual Note Taking

“Please can we do something fun?”

This is a student’s familiar plea,  especially when it’s the last block of the day.

The students answered their own question at 3:00pm.

I teach an intensive skills class to 9th graders that only lasts a quarter.  One of our units is on the importance of visual literacy and today I planned a lesson on visual note taking.  I followed Vicki Davis’ lesson plan.  The students were hooked.  When I handed out the white sheets of paper and they chose their markers; the students were as apprehensive as I am when it comes to sketchnoting.  “I can’t draw”.  I quoted what I’d read in an article on sketchnoting for teachers, and told them confidently that if they can draw stick figures and arrows they are well on their way to taking good visual notes.

We discussed the what, why and how ( a great idea from Ross Morrison McGill’s 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers) of  note taking; and a couple of students groaned “Cornell Notes.”  (I didn’t want to spoil their afternoon ‘fun’ by telling them that that was the next strategy we’d be tackling.)

As Davis suggests in her post, the kids watched the following TED talk and sketched their notes.

Yes, they did have fun and were proud of their stick figures, images, arrows, symbols and choice of colors.


We tend to use this word lightly – an inspirational talk, video, book.  However, today I want to thank Dave Stuart Jr., whose teacher friendly blog I have been following for some time. I want to thank Dave for introducing me to Barrett Brooks.  His compelling post expresses so succinctly what education is all about.

Brooks’ 6 principals surely make up the profile of our learners.


Our responsibility is to teach our youngsters



exposure to a variety of topics


design thinking


These principals are challenging and energizing.

Who or what inspired you this weekend?



Low Tech Notes

LI was looking through my twitter feed about 10 minutes before my ELLs arrived in class when I read the following:

Although the students resist, I  insist they keep an idea/thought/interactive notebook.

I always stress that  note taking is one of the essential skills they’ll need in high school and college.  They practice Cornell, discussion and even sketch note taking in the hope that they  find a system that works best for them.   All notes are handwritten.

For this morning’s warm up, I projected and read  an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, written only yesterday,  with up to date research on the benefits of written rather than typed notes. We had an interesting discussion about low distractions such as drawing and doodling.  I explained that according to research, that also helps you think.

It appears that I am not the only teacher who insists on hand written notes.  Their social studies teacher has the same idea.

How do you teach note taking?