Sketchnoting in the Classrooms

To say that I’ve been inspired by Tanny McGregor is an understatement. Ever since my first grad school class when we used her book Comprehension Connections, I’ve been following her work and improving my craft as an educator through her comprehension strategies.

Fast forward to 2018..ish…I was sitting in a meeting helping plan what our winter Institute Day would look like, when the question was asked, “who do we know outside our district that could lead us in some comprehension work?” We threw out a couple ideas, but didn’t love any of them.

Well, that evening I decided to randomly email Tanny, not thinking she would even respond, and ask if she would be able to lead us in some much needed PD around comprehension work. Much to my surprise, she emailed me back within the hour! We worked out the details and in January 2019, she made it out to my district for our first of many PD sessions together!

Me trying to keep my cool as I finally met Tanny McGregor in person

The latest PD we have had with Tanny has been all around sketchnoting. If you’re not familiar, it’s exactly what it sounds like: taking notes through sketching quick pictures. Sketchnoting has been proven to help with the retention of new ideas and hard concepts. Tanny showed us some amazing examples from her latest book, Ink and Ideas and walked us through some ways that we could begin to incorporate this strategy into our classrooms.

One of the biggest reasons that I have fully jumped on the sketchnoting train, is how accessible it is for ALL students. We all have students in our class that struggle with retaining or comprehending a story, writing reading responses, or sequencing the events of a story. Sketchnoting allows these students to draw their ideas, rather than writing them out.

This student is taking an assessment and sketchnoting her understanding of a concept rather than a traditonal multiple choice test.
This sweet friend showed off her sketchnoting from a beginning chapter book that she was reading. She was so happy because she finally felt successful during a book club discussion due to her new understanding of the story!

Here are a couple ways that you could easily begin to incorporate some sketchnoting into your schools and classrooms:

  • Read a story out loud and have students sketch what’s happening in the story. When the story is over, have students pair up and practice retelling their stories using only their sketches as an aid.
  • After introducing a new science or social studies concept, have students draw a quick sketch that shows their understanding of their new knowledge.
  • Students can sketch the major events from a chapter in a novel. During a book club meeting, students can discuss their drawings and understanding with each other.
  • Take time to introduce sketchnoting to your class by showing them different details that they can add to their drawings.

Even as an adult, I find myself resorting to sketchnoting in my latest grad school program. While I listen to the lectures, I realize that rather than traditional notetaking, I am drawing quick sketches that will help me better retain what I heard.

Happy sketching!


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