I got introduced to ‘sketchnoting’ fairly recently. However, as I investigated and practiced, I realized that I had actually been doing sketch noting from childhood. Writing small notes for myself in the margins of my notebook in school or making a square or a circle around the text that I wanted to highlight, or simply underlining the important lines that I wanted to remember, where all styles of sketch-noting. In fact, as a teacher of biology, when I encouraged students to draw and label the diagrams, I would also encourage them to annotate. Unknowingly, I was encouraging them to sketchnote.
My biggest learning so far has been, to understand that sketchnote is not art, so don’t try too hard to get the ‘drawing’ right. It is the IDEA that you are making visible that counts. Sketchnote is visual thinking. We think in terms of visuals and therefore what we draw is what we are thinking, thereby making a connection between words and images. We have evidence of cave paintings that comprised of symbols and icons and not actual writing; indicating that humans have evolved using symbols and images to communicate. It comes naturally to us. Studies show that human brain can process visuals faster than words and when we use this strategy with our students in class, they become more engaged with their learning as they try and represent their thinking on paper. The use of symbols only further strengthens the connections that they are forming to develop better understanding.
What do I Need for Sketchnoting?
Pen, paper and an idea! It really is that simple. It is easy to start by sketchnoting symbols, icons, a quote, something you heard, or saw. It can be anything.
What I Sketchnote These Days?
• Podcasts that I hear.
Twitter chats that I participate in. The latest being ‘Hive Summit’
• House hold items. This helps me practice and build my visual vocabulary.
• Calligraphy. This is fairly new!
• Food and travel experiences.
• Note taking during meetings.
Teachers can encourage students to learn, practice and use sketchnoting as a technique for a variety of reasons.
• For learning and remembering
• As an activity for mindfulness
• Make connections between concepts, subjects and content
• Encourage creative and visual thinking
• Increase focus and attention
• Multi-sensory learning or VAKT (visual-auditory-kinesthetic-tactile) (Mercer & Mercer,1993)
Students can be taught note-taking skill through sketchnoting. They can build their own vocabulary using simple icons to represent images. For example, a clock for deadlines or homework, a lightening bolt to represent a new idea etc. Building this vocabulary helps them to focus more on what they are learning and not on the spot organisation of the content.
The basic elements to use in sketchnoting are; containers for text, arrows and lines to show sequence, thought bubbles for thinking, and a combination of these to make stick figures! Start small and simple using basic shapes.
Just remember, it is not about art but the idea!
“Visual-spatial thinkers are going undetected and undernourished” -Betty Fetter