Monthly Archives: October 2015

Note taking…for fun?

Today I had the opportunity to visit one of the 6th grade science rooms (shout out to @KatieBudrow) at my school and introduce Sketchnoting. The kids and I spent some time talking about traditional note taking and some of the difficulties they encounter during the process. They talked about how many times they frantically write and don’t process any of the information they are putting on paper or in a digital document. I asked if any of them doodle during class, and the overwhelming answer was Yes! So, this was the question…

What if your doodles could become part of your notes and help you learn WHILE you take them?

As expected, this garnered quite the positive response. So, we dove in. I didn’t give many instructions to the kids, simply that we could include drawings and words to capture the main ideas and key points of what was being presented. We looked at a couple of examples and got started. At the beginning of the period, the students had journaled about ‘What is the scariest or spookiest, or creepiest species on the planet? (Today is the day before Halloween just for a point of reference!). To begin I had the kids think about how they could turn their journal entry into a sketchnote.

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We then moved on to a more difficult task of sketchnoting with a video segment – the football scene from It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. The segment was short – just over a minute, but below are examples of what they came up with. They needed to know that it didn’t have to make sense to others, but it had to make sense to them.

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Finally, we shifted the conversation to science and some quick drawings/icons we could use with their current unit on ecosystems. We didn’t have a lot of time, but it was neat to see what they came up with for some of the key ideas – a sun for energy, arrows for cycle, pizza for food, grass, trees, and flowers for a habitat…

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The best part? The students made comments such  as – Can I do this during class? This is fun! I like this better than writing everything down. Can I add to the notes afterward? The kids then realized that adding to the notes later on would actually be doing what their teachers ask them to do daily with notes…review them.


Here’s to our newest members of the sketchnoting community!

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Break the yo-yo

We’ve all been there…the fantastic moment after a workshop, training or some variety of professional learning and you are inspired. You can’t wait to take it back to your school or classroom. You are intrigued and want to learn more. The new ideas swim in your head and the passion for learning is sparked.

But then life happens, and the excitement fades. You return to your busy schedule. When new ideas are brought to colleagues peer pressure can develop to maintain the status quo and not ‘rock the boat’. Time and energy are always at a premium so a change can feel overwhelming, especially without support from others. The new idea goes by the wayside for a variety of reasons and the learning is for naught. Sigh…I wish I could say this hasn’t happened to me, but I shall not tell a lie.

The other night my husband picked up a yo-yo that belongs to our boys. He started to use it without realizing it was broken. He sent the yo-yo down and once it reached the bottom – it fell apart. Rather than swallowing up the string on the return trip and recoiling into his hand, the sides and string from the yo-yo came falling to the ground.

broken yoyo

At that moment I made a connection. We need to be cautious that our professional learning does not become a yo-yo. I was very guilty of this – getting excited about learning something new but retreating into old habits once back in my classroom. The yo-yo goes out, the growth happens, and then we pull back into the comfort zone without applying the new learning. The movement forward is stopped and we regress.

Let’s break the yo-yo.

Break it so we can move forward as educators. Break it so learning doesn’t stagnate. Break it so that our kids experience new things and new ideas. Break it so the growth mindset we need to model is loud and clear. Break it so our passion as teachers becomes their passion as students.

…and I’m keeping the broken yo-yo as a reminder.