When any unit is designed, I intentionally consider what important academic skills I can either teach students or reinforce to support critical thinking in preparation for academic endeavors after high school. While the majority of my juniors and seniors are familiar with annotating, we still practice making our internal thinking and interactions with the text visible on paper no matter what we are reading.
An idea presented at NCTE last year was sketchnoting, which is the practice of creating visual annotations to develop meaning. Students are encouraged to draw pictures and symbols or icons instead of writing their thinking in the margins, like a visual poem write around or visual 1 Pager. While I am certainly no artist, just stick figures over here, sketching annotations adds a different dimension to meaning-making.
I love that sketchnotes provide an opportunity for more creative interactions with a text and provide an opportunity to use the right side of the brain. Sketchnoting simply offers another mode for students to create meaning and retain information (You can watch a great overview from Verbal to Visual and utilize the free resources, too).
As we dig into our first full class novel, students are assigned pages to annotate or sketchnote as we read, these pages then prompt our TQE (thoughts, questions, epiphanies) discussions. I started out with a think aloud model for students with the first (rather dry) pages of The Great Gatsby.
While most students begin with traditional annotations, highlighting and marginalia, because that is what they’re more comfortable with, many slowly branch out into adding pictures or visual notations with more practice and after seeing their peer’s examples.
Aside from having students intentionally interact with a text and build their annotation skills, the annotations and sketchnotes provide scaffolding for the final project, a visual 1 Pager or a “graffiti wall” that encourages students to display their learning visually. I did this project two years ago with juniors who read –I may challenge this year’s crew to use fewer words.
Visual notetaking can be a more compelling way to lure students into making meaning with a text or other content. I am hoping more sketchnotes start popping up on the pages of students’ notebooks and other assignments, in my classroom or others.
Maggie Lopez is awaiting the snow and start of ski season in Salt Lake City, but wishing she was attending NCTE 2019 this month. She is currently reading Into the Water. Follow her @meg_lopez0.