Friday, March 29, 2013

Sketchnotes: Visually Mapping Ideas

Source: Student Work - ASIDE, 2013
Sketchnotes are a multi-sensory form of note-taking involving listening, synthesizing and visualizing and can make a difference in the way students learn. This year we decided to jump right into using this non-linear approach, and to our surprise the results were amazing on two fronts.

Source: Student Work - ASIDE, 2013
First, the notes were expressive, creative, and personal to each student. It involved decision-making on their part as to how to best layout the information to meet their needs, and the element of choice was evident in their approach. The second, and perhaps the most important, rested in the ability of each student to recall information spontaneously based on the interplay of words and pictures in their sketchnotes. This process helped them to listen carefully to the lesson, to build in visual cues to make connections, and to focus their attention in the physical act of taking notes.

Source: Student Work - ASIDE, 2013

We originally did sketchnotes in pencil and then went over the lines with black marker. Although it was not time consuming, it lacked spontaneity and risk-taking. Students tended to erase because of perceived mistakes, slowing the flow of listening, writing and drawing. Our first few attempts were done this way before we realized it was best just to go for it using marker directly on paper. We were totally pleased with the results, because the focus fell squarely on the collection of information and less on being exacting. Another side benefit was how they shared their sketchnotes with each other, ultimately reinforcing key concepts.

Source: Student Work - ASIDE, 2013
Perhaps the most rewarding thing for us as teachers was when a student looked up at the end of the period with an amazed look at what she had just done and said, "I think sketchnoting suits me." She was right and could explain everything about what was just covered in class using them. It was clear; visually mapping the information made a world of difference for her.

Interestingly enough, a group of students who had done a similar exercise a year before in our early stages of trying to incorporate visualizations actually recalled the information, but they noticed it was done differently. They had tons of questions about sketchnotes and were intrigued to try it themselves. It surprised us just how much designing and visualizing information helped them retain what they had learned, and we realized we were onto something. By giving kids another avenue for note-taking to visually map ideas, it made the content stick.


  1. Do you have a post where you cover how you teach your students to Sketchnote? Thanks!

  2. We have quite a few posts about working with students using sketchnotes. Please see:

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