Friday, April 22, 2016

More ways to use Visual Notes in the Secondary Classroom!

2 ways we used Edusketching in class this week, that you can implement tomorrow!

1. The Collaborative Whiteboard Review: As a review of the day's learning in World History, I began by writing a title elicited from the students: "What was the primary topic of today's learning?" It was an introduction to the French Revolution, as you can see at the top of the whiteboard. 

Then I simply started asking students about some key points and takeaways from their reading and their notes. "Tell me about the social hierarchy", and as they talked, I drew--but only the title and the social classes you see here.  Then we talked about causes of the Revolution, primary people, etc. etc. and as soon as students gave answers, I said "c'mon up and draw that for us". Big smiles and eagerness were the norm here, as in "hey, this is fun."

For those who knew the information but were reluctant to come and draw, I simply asked the other students how we could represent ______ with a simple drawing. LOADS of help from the others encouraged the reluctant to give it a go! This photo is from today, when students actually asked me if they could add more notes to our compilation from yesterday. 

Edusketching in action!
What? How awesome is that?

Anyway, I love their energy when they take small risks. Students at their seats can copy without risk, then add to their own as we go. Can't you imagine trying this simple review tomorrow in class?

2. Visual Summaries: My ESL class ranges in proficiency levels from absolute newcomers (just arrived in the past 3 weeks) to a high level 3. Lots of gifts within these students, let me tell you. They are currently working on a storytelling video project, and as we are thinking about how to make our stories more interesting to the audience, we are focusing guessed it...those wonderful details to make the story stick. 

This is what we did. This particular class is comprised of all native Spanish speakers, and my Costa Rican colleague agreed, with delight I might add, to weave a fanciful 5-minute tale in Spanish for them about one of her, ahem...Adventures. 

Her storytelling hat donned, students were prepared to record her story via Visual Summary. They had 6 boxes in their homemade graphic organizers, with lines under each for an accompanying sentence about it. She regaled them with tales of Costa Rica, cows, and stolen mangoes. 

Kids completed their visual summaries, and most (not all) completed some sort of sentence or label underneath each sketched picture. Notice the differences in writing, imagery, and details from this range of students and their progressing abilities.

This student captured the sequence, with words for
the beginning and end.  
This student captured the sequence, with slightly more detailed
drawings, but needed to go back to recount details verbally.
This student was "resourceful" by erasing and combining pictures
5 & 6, and also used some labels.  
4/ 6 images, but with sentences for each.
6/ 6 images plus verbal details for each. See how quickly
you can assess students with visual summaries, while
you're having conversations with them and digging deeper
into what they know? So much fun, too. 
6/6 images, plus labels and some simple phrases. Love how quickly
these visuals let me assess listening,  writing, and speaking (through
informal conversations about their images and then when they share
with their peers).
The next day, students worked in groups to analyze 4-5 summaries each. What can we learn from visual summaries? What was the same? What was different? And most importantly, why the similarities / differences?
Conversations were slow to start because this was the first time we'd done anything like this in class, and these were very new questions. We had all heard the exact same story. It was told in their native language. 


The images were different. And the same. How could that be? 

Through their analysis, they realized that 2-3 similar details were in each of the summaries: mango trees, airplanes/ airports, and people from the story. Why was this? Out of all the other details what made these resonate so deeply? What made them stick? 

The biggest reason they stated was that they thought it was because they could relate to her culture and knew about mango trees, and that everyone in the class is from Central America like her. 

They analyzed the content: the sequence and details were all correct in each of them, despite differing details; they thought that the visuals made it shorter and easier to understand, and they learned some life lessons from her story. 

Differences? Drawing ability was one idea posed for the differences, while levels of listening ability were proposed as the reason a couple of our students only completed 2-3 images of the 6. :-) Some groups focused more on the actual story than my question, but their conversations remained rich regarding the topic, and I let them converse for a couple of minutes before re-focusing. 

They also understood that everyone in the class has different visual ideas for thinking and drawing, that all people think and visualize differently, and differences stem from our imagination. 

So what does this mean for their next steps? They will now go forth in the next steps of their video script armed with these takeaways:

1. How can you help the audience relate to your story?
2. What key details do you want your audience to walk away with? (and is there a why?)
3. What language can you add to create vivid images in your audience's mind?
4. What imagery within your own video will help you reach your audience like you hope to?
5. What is the tone of your story? Humorous, serious, informative? 

This analysis took about 30 minutes, but the conversations within each group were animated, and they enjoyed looking at each others' visual summaries. The simplicity of sketches always belies the complexity of thought and the vast lessons that can be learned about each others' thinking.  

How will you incorporate a lesson like this tomorrow? I'd love to know!


  1. This was called mind mapping about 20 years ago.

    1. Thanks for your reply. I feel it's a little different than mind mapping. I originally used the visuals to clarify vocabulary and concepts for language learners when I began teaching 21 years ago. There is a strong reliance on the combined sketches and limited use of words--but not the same structures of mind mapping, which I consider limiting.

  2. It sounds practical and animated for students to get involved in the activities

    1. Thank you. The kids definitely do get into the activities, and it creates a unique community feel of trust and wonder.

  3. I remember this as mind mapping, too. It used multi-modalities and a little emotional intelligences with it. I was an elementary teacher and would use a double period to overview a unit using pictures and contextual elements. It was the best teaching technique that I've ever used (once I figured out the unit). Students had great notebooks and all the information was there, in context, with the ability to build on interesting points.
    I admit that putting this on the a lesson plan is ridiculously difficult, but I would overview it.

  4. Sounds like great interactive notebooks! Yes, sometimes it's a challenge to encapsulate what goes on during the analysis and how many smaller pieces make the learning tangible and memorable, but it's worthwhile to try. Thanks for sharing!