Reflection on Visual Notes

I shouldn’t admit this way I sometimes plan, especially after the brilliant day of curriculum writing I just had with Jessica Hockett and Catherine Brighton, and the K-6 ELA curriculum committee.

True confession:  Sometimes ideas just sit in my brain for a bit, stewing.  I see something a student did, and then I see an idea pinned on pinterest, and then those ideas mix around with things I think are fun, or authentic, or better yet both. So I google, and take notes, and think. And then suddenly in the middle of the day, the idea pops out. It’s done, and ready for the kids to try. That’s what happened with Visual Notes. I saw pins like thisthis  and this. I watched this. I thought about the work we have been doing with wonderopolis, with noticing our thinking before, during and after reading, and I decided it was time to give it a try. So I ran with it.

I explained Visual Note Taking by taking visual notes about visual note taking. (Wish I had a picture of this – but it talked about visual notes being like mind maps, a way to organize information, and not about our drawing skills.) We jumped in with Wonder #1332: How Long has Gymnastics been a sport. I did the activity with the kids, and loved how I could use my whole page, and my fun pens. I showed my example after we were done working and was happy about my information. I shared with my class that I wished I had been able to use some of the cool drawing ideas I had seen on pins like this and this. I also hadn’t left enough room for my own questions, and it just wasn’t as awesome as I wanted it to be.

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I was impressed by my students’ work. Some were words only, organized in bubbles like a web  – but still great notes. Others added pictures to organize things like the different tools gymnasts use. All of this led to a great conversation about how these notes were our own thinking put together with the author’s Wonder. I could tell that students were getting ideas from the notes we looked at together.

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My other reading class assessed my visual notes before beginning their own. I did their wonder with them as well: Wonder #1335: Why Do People Cough? This time, my second time through, I was able to use some of the techniques I had been wanting to try out. My second try is nowhere near perfect. But, it is an improvement. I added color, and a few of my own thoughts. I even used stick figures to emphasize.

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Later that day in Social Studies, this happened:

Me: Okay, I have a crazy idea, so stick with me. . . Let’s take collaborative visual notes on the Neolithic Age!

yada yada yada, directions, discussion, etc….

Student: Wow, Ms. Thought! You said this was going to be crazy, but you never said it was going to be crazy cool!

Even later that day, while grading papers from a few days prior, I found this as notes on a student’s paper: Image 10

Kinda like they already knew how to do this visual notes thing!

Since I started this mini unit on Visual Notes in my classroom, I have continued to read about the concept. It feels right, yes, but I also know that it is helping students sort out all the information they are reading, and combine it in order to design their own understanding – in a fun and creative way. I love that they are practicing this tool!

Today in my curriculum development session, I decided to practice my own visual note taking with a live speaker. Whoosh! It was engaging, helpful, and fun.

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I’ve always enjoyed doodling, but honestly couldn’t tell you if it helps or hinders my listening skills. But today, with the visual note taking? It helped my understanding and my ability to synthesize the take away points. I can’t wait to try it again in my teaching and my learning.

2 thoughts on “Reflection on Visual Notes

  1. Love the use of visual notetaking – I use it with my students (6th & 7th graders) as a means of review – looking over their notes & books and creating “doodle notes” to study by! Great post.

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