SOS: Sketchnotes

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SOS Big Idea

Visual or graphic note taking, also called Sketchnoting, is gaining greater popularity as a strategy for increasing engagement in lectures, seminars and video presentations. When sketchnoting, learners use visual means to analyze information, make comparisons and develop analogies to better understand and communicate what they’ve learned. This requires higher level thinking. It is also directly related to Robert Marzano’s research on the significant positive affects that nonlinguistic representations have on student achievement.

Materials: sketchpad and pencil OR iPad/tablet and stylus

Special Note: Be sure to watch the corresponding video vignette to see a Sketchnote being created. This will help you understand the process better.

1.Gather tools for students to use while Sketchnoting. A low-tech option is a standard sketchpad and pen. For a high-tech option make iPad(s) or other tablet(s) and a stylus available. Make sure the tablets have some kind of drawing app installed. Sketches (free) or ProCreate (paid)

2.Teach students basic techniques for Sketchnoting, such as creating containers for information, arrows & lines, text and basic graphic shapes. Some examples are shown in the PDF version of the strategy. Consider providing the following image as a handout for students to use as a reference!

SOS Sum It Up
Creating Sketchnotes is a fun and interesting way to engage students in synthesizing information. With practice students will become more adept at providing visual interpretations of what they’ve learned and while also honing their ability to synthesize and analyze information.

SOS More IdeasTips for effective Sketchnotes include:

1.Section the drawing surface into logical chunks of time (for example, four quarters for an 4-minute long video)

2.The less students think about their drawing skills, the better the result.

3.Illustrations are great to make the Sketchnote engaging and more meaningful, but it’s more important to get the essence of the conversation by creating a structure that helps explain the story of the information the Sketchnote has captured.

4.Encourage students to stop and listen from time to time. This will help them focus on summarizing information rather than recording everything word for word.

Want more?

Access all strategies by visiting the SOS Content Collection in the Professional Development section in Discovery Education.


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  1. Victor Cervantes said:

    What a wonderful way to engage student participation in note taking. As I saw the sample being created, I could visualize how excited students would be about being able to draw their notes rather than write out everything. It provides a perfect opportunity for my 8th graders to use all the different colored pencils and markers they have that they don’t get to use very often. I can see myself trying this in my 8th grade science class, perhaps with a section of the text or a small passage. This strategy would completely engage the artistic students in my class, and I hope with time it will do the same for the not so artistic group. I anticipate reservations from some students thinking their artistic abilities are not up to par, but with the knowledge that it’s the content that’s important not the art, hopefully they will dive into it as well. Using the electronic program would help the engagement factor as well. It would surely make the task of note taking much more fun than simply writing thoughts on paper.

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