I have been playing with teaching sketchnoting for the past month. I naturally doodle while reading and listening. It helps me focus, remember, and make connections from familiar concepts to new ones. I thought that by teaching our 4th graders this strategy they might be able to focus, remember and understand better and more deeply. I hope it will become an integral part of their reading toolbox. My first lesson encompassed introducing how to sketchnote and providing time to practice the basic drawing techniques.
We practiced sketchnoting about something very familiar – ourselves. Each student made a sketchnote introducing many aspects of themselves: their likes and dislikes, their family members, and what they enjoy doing. In the next lesson, I read the picture book, Owl Moon by Jane Yolen. I chose this book due to its strong visual nature and use figurative language. I thought these elements would help the students create sketches and write down vivid images.
This week, I continued to give students sketchnote practice time. First, I made sure to review the sketchnoting basics. Next, I had the students warm up for sketchnoting by sky writing, which is writing in the air with their index fingers. Then, I asked them to make simple abstract doodles on paper while listening to music for a few minutes.
Now, the students were ready to sketchnote. I explained that I was going to slowly read the book, Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport. I asked students to share what they already knew about Dr. King’s life and work. Some students proudly shared their knowledge, while other continued to ask questions. Soon they were ready to focus on the story. I chose this book because it focuses on the nonviolent concepts Dr. King taught and believed. I wanted these concepts to be the focal point of the students’ sketchnotes. In this way, I believed the students would continue to remember King’s big words and the peaceful way in which he led others to protest against inequality. King’s words were so important then and are incredibly crucial now: freedom, love, God, faith, goodness, kindness, courage, trust, compassion, together, equity, justice, bravery, equality, care, determination, respect, unity, resilience, hope, and dream.
The girls listened carefully as I read and showed the pictures. Some students asked me to repeat some pages with text they wanted to remember. During this thirty minute reading session, I had the students’ complete attention. They all diligently sketchnoted for the entire time. From observing their work, I could gauge each student’s level of understanding. It is such a quick and graphic way to assess student understanding. Next week, I plan to have them add to their sketchnotes after some discussion and reflection about their process. Most of the students enjoy this strategy and find it helpful. I know that listening and selecting important details is a skills they will continue to use throughout their lives, so I encourage them to keep practicing and take risks. There are no right answers, no absolutes in sketchnoting. It is another free and creative form of expression at their fingertips.
MORE TO READ:
- A Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson
- As Good as Anybody by Richard Michelson
- Be a King by Carole Boston Weatherford
- Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton
- I Have a Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
- Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport
- Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney
- My Brother Martin by Christine King Farris
- My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Martin Luther King III
- My Dream of Martin Luther King by Faith Ringgold
- My Uncle Martin’s Big Heart by Angel Farris Watkins
- That is My Dream! By Langston Hughes
These are examples of my playing with sketchnoting. I did not show my work to the students until after they had created their sketchnotes. I stressed the process and the elements of sketchnoting, not the artistic quality. I wanted to give them a sample of how to build a presentation.