Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lock in New Information: Use Visual Notes

Our 9th grade students are working on a historical magazine project. They need to write different types of articles about the Renaissance, all based on research. After hearing about the lack of student voice in their early drafts, I decided to introduce visual note-taking.

I hooked them with some talk about brain research. We're learning that hand-writing notes does more to help us retain information than typed notes: the kinesthetic element gets our synapses firing. 



Note-taking infographic via Edudemic

Next, I showed this video which describes the three main elements of visual notes: text, visuals, and structure.



Notes like this help students "own" new information

Then I modeled my own process. 

I chose a few paragraphs from a Britannica (Renaissance Art Revival). We read it over together and all agreed that the information was passing us by, and we were starting to glaze over. 

I said, "Visual notes will move us from glazing over the information to OWNING the information." 


Next, I showed them my notes. 

"Remember," I stressed, "it's not art class!" Symbols and quick sketches are fine because this work is not meant to be turned in; it only has to make sense to the student.

Here are my notes (yes, they're in pencil...)






Next, students practiced with one of their own resources. We worked silently for about 15 minutes, then students got up and moved around the room showing their notes and talking about what they had learned....all far away from the informational text.

To wrap up, we talked about times when visual notes would make sense:
Biology Notes from Sketchnotes


- when studying for a test on a concept we've found difficult


when learning short chunks of complex information


- when learning new terminology in Biology, for example.


- when planning out essay or project work which connects various ideas


When are visual notes NOT the best strategy? 


- When the information is basic or clearly laid out already


For more models of visual notes, click below. 

With extra care and colors, these would also make great "final products" in lieu of a traditional book report, lab report, or essay.


Examples via TeachThought