Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Sketchnoting, Mapping, And Making Enhance The Visual Thinking Process

Source: ASIDE, 2015
Oh, what a year it’s been. It seems we flew through May without taking a breath as we worked through a myriad of projects. One of our favorites this spring was completed as part of the second grade social studies unit on communities. We collaborated with our colleagues Stefani Rosenthal (@StefRosenthal) and Jessica Raffaelle (@miss_raffaelle) to build a project-based learning unit to answer the question, "Where Do People Live?" More importantly, we wanted to build a visual vocabulary to help support the thinking process using sketchnotes, maps, and three-dimensional design.

Source: Stefani Rosenthal, 2015
We introduced sketchnoting several years ago to educators at various grade levels. The second grade teachers never looked back. They’ve made it a staple in their toolkit ever since. The bulletin board image featured in this post represents the variety of visual thinking strategies that the learners employed to convey the different types of communities, including rural, suburban, and urban.

A closer look at the details in the sketchnotes provides a real sense of the selection process that most accurately represents what the students are thinking, not only in the types of visuals, but also in the arrangement of the descriptive information to help them fully grasp the content.

Source: 2nd Grade Students, 2015
In the next phase of the project, the students mapped out the different types of communities. They worked in groups, with each student making his or her own hand-drawn map and key. Each community contained certain must-haves, such as police and fire stations, but the land use from rural areas to urban cities made the maps quite different. It involved a lot of discussion and decision-making on their part as to how to design the roads, types of buildings, and homes.

Source: ASIDE, 2015
This involved a good deal of spatial awareness, and these charming two-dimensional maps with hand-drawn keys represent their visual acuity. The details are delightful, showing barns with silos, swimming pools in suburbia, and skyscrapers in the city. The students absolutely loved making these maps. They even took it upon themselves to add street names. With such strong maps as actual plans for the next step, it’s no wonder that the three-dimensional construction of these communities came out so well.

Source: ASIDE, 2015
The final piece to the project involved building the actual community in the new makerspace in the library. This took some planning and negotiation within the group, because they had to visually transfer a flat design into a three-dimensional environment. Occasionally, it was not without argument either. We allowed some latitude on this; it was important for them to figure it out for themselves.

In the end, they realized the first thing they needed was to lay out the road system. This help them visually see where they would need to place buildings, put in parks, provide for homes, etc. They traced the box bottom on the board, gave it a number, and then coded the bottom of the box with the same number. This made assembly of the final, painted boxes on the map easy. With a little Model Magic, the students added transportation, rooftop playgrounds, and tomato patches.

Source: ASIDE, 2015
Each phase of this project incorporated visual thinking skills that built upon the previous step. Threading the content through the various stages in the design process reinforced the essential question.

The students became independent photo journalists, taking aerial and detailed shots of the maps, and then wrote illustrated reports using the Nearpod app on their iPads. The last thing we did was to use an iPhone as a little drone that traveled through the entire map to take a video of the finished piece as a whole.



This project did more than just build a deeper understanding of the different types of communities. It fostered a stronger sense of community as a whole; the sense of pride and accomplishment on their faces was priceless.

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