Yesterday I picked up my 3rd grade GT students for class, and one of them had a cute little notebook. When I asked her what it was for, she said that she just likes to take notes and draw things in it.
Funnily enough, I had just participated in a Twitter chat the night before, and we had talked about student engagement. Note-taking was mentioned, and we discussed how copying down what the teacher has on the board isn’t usually very engaging, but other types of notes can be. I gave the Vi Hart videos as an example of taking note-taking to another level.
I was curious to see what my 3rd grader would do with her notebook. I don’t find myself saying a lot of “noteworthy” things during class, so I suspected she would do more off-task drawing than anything academic. However, I didn’t want to discourage another potential Vi Hart!
In our small circle of 6 + me, we discussed systems thinking and the Billibonk and the Thorn Patch book. The monkeys had just learned that elephants were easy to trick from watching the mice, and we talked about how, as role models, we never know who is observing our behavior. My student was busily drawing in her book, and I asked if she wanted to share.
She explained that getting away with doing something wrong could cause an endless loop -like a person breaking a window makes other people think it’s okay to break windows, and it keeps happening.
Definitely not off-task.
During our Hands-On-Equations lesson, my student sketched a lot in her book. She later showed me her drawings – detailed examples of an equation we solved on the whiteboard along with the vocabulary I introduced today, “legal move.”
Some people call it Sketchnotes. Others call it mind mapping or visual note-taking. My 3rd grade student’s notes haven’t reached the sophistication of Vi Hart, Austin Kleon, or other examples you will find online. But I will have this young artist in my class until the end of 5th grade, and I can’t wait to see what her notes look like by then!
If you are interested in Sketchnoting, Kathy Schrock has an excellent page of links, apps, and video resources to use with students. I think it would be well worthwhile to show some of the examples to students, and give them the option of visual note-taking in class.
UPDATE: 10/31/14 – I just found this great post on Doodling from Leah Levy that explains why doodling is great for your students and gives even more resources!