The Art of Visual Notetaking

At my first National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) convention, I found myself surrounded by celebrities – at least in the world of literacy. Franki Sibberson and Troy Hicks were presenting on the topics of technology-enhanced reading. Paul Hankins was seated behind me. Lee Ann Spillane was sitting next to me.

As Franki and Troy presented, I was impressed with my neighbors’ listening skills, considering how connected they are online. Paul was a great conversationalist when we had the chance to talk with a neighbor. Lee Ann had a blank sketchbook out, synthesizing the information through writing and drawing. 

Following her lead, I put my laptop down, shut off Twitter on my tablet, grabbed my stylus and opened up Penultimate on my iPad Air. My first tries were more text than visuals and pretty concrete (click here and here to see my initial attempts). I thought back to how Lee Ann visualized the metaphors evoked in the presentations. My final visual notes better captured my thinking, this time during Steven Layne’s presentation on reading aloud. For example, I drew a road around the phrase “Know where the text is going”.

 

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My visual notes of this topic made it more understandable and memorable for me. Limiting myself to primary colors helped to keep things simple. Visual notetaking allowed me be less of a Twitter transcriptionist and more of a learner – all thanks to where I sat.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is an 18-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th-grade teacher in Rudolph, WI. He now serves as an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District, also in Wisconsin (http://mineralpointschools.org/). He also teaches online graduate courses in curriculum design and instructional leadership for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. Matt tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

9 thoughts on “The Art of Visual Notetaking”

  1. When the student is ready the teacher appears. That’s purposeful learning in the moment. If only we could orchestrate situations as meaningful for students in the classroom. It’s great when it does occur. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. How serendipitous! I was at a Thespian conference this weekend and found myself using visual note taking. The practice seems to help anchor me to what’s going on and seems more intuitive than just words. I like the free-form approach: taking traditional notes is very linear, but using pictures opens up the note taking space visually and it’s easier to see relationships among ideas.

    Like

  3. I love this idea Matt! Thanks for sharing. I teach note-taking skills to all year levels in my school and was wondering if you’d allow me to use your great examples to show students how visual note-taking can look.

    Like

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