Who remembers taking notes? How did we learn to take notes? I just remember being well skilled at taking bulleted lists on college ruled paper. I had stacks of notebooks with handwritten notes from textbooks organized by heading and subheadings. Not all my classmates found it easy to pull information out of course books and put information into note taking form. 20 years later I am not sure what was in those notes. I do not remember writing them or studying them for a test where I regurgitated information. What I do remember are the notes I took in my global history class in 1993 and 1994. Chief told us we could figure out a way to get all the book information on a piece of paper and use it on tests and quizzes. I remember drawing the dynasties out, separating them like puzzle pieces. I used an umbrella to sketch out the different religions, sketching ideas and words in the raindrops. Little did I know I was doing something called sketchnoting at 14 years old, but it was a valuable way to synthesize and share information.
Not all students benefit from writing down the facts. Some do better at sketching it out, so today our class embarked in a sketchnoting activity in social studies. After reading about why explorers traveled and discovering the Silk Road existed, students were asked what motivated explorers to explore. They were given some choices (because students need choices) to show their information. One child wrote a paragraph explaining the reasons for exploration, and twenty-one students opted to sketchnote. We viewed a video to help us better understand sketchnoting, as You Tube is a great learning tool.
Observing 5th graders sketchnote is fascinating. They all had different approaches, which helped them capture their answer to the question. Students had an opportunity to share their work with collaborative groups, and they were tasked with thinking about how their work was similar and different from their classmates. During our reflection discussion one student told us color was important, and it was okay to color outside the lines. Another discussed how he thought more about including important details. A student created a map of explorer and trail and every time he had an idea he wrote it in trail. Someone else started with a single thing in middle went around it with reasons. One classmate made a treasure chest filled with gold and silver in it because the Spanish ventured for it. Someone else sketched a plant and a + sign and a human face with an equals sign with addiction. We had ships, flags claiming land, and religious images too!
Students began asking other questions and realized they could answer them in a blog or discovery quest. Students should begin to think about which form of notetaking works better for them.