In every class there’s always that one kid who refuses to do work. They’re not incapable of it-they just don’t want to do it. Sound familiar?

In my fifth year of teaching, that one kid drove me mad. He could talk your ears off about everything we had learned about, but he always put the bare minimum into his classwork and assignments. Sometimes not even that.

Want to know the number one strategy that helped me get this kid working? Visual note-taking. And the best part? You can try it for free.

You’ve probably heard of it

You’ve probably heard about visual note-taking or read about it (if not, see here). And you want to try it, but you’re not sure how to get started, especially since you can’t draw. Don’t stress!

Today I’m going to share three free videos about visual note-taking to get you started.

Verbal to Visual

Verbal to visual has several excellent videos, including one about how to get over the fear of drawing, one about the benefits of sketch noting, and how to sketch note a book.

How to sketch note a book may be of particular interest to English/ELA/literature teachers. And, while an entire book may be overwhelming for students, a chapter-by-chapter sketch note may be just right.

Plus it might be a more engaging alternative to answering chapter questions or writing chapter summaries.

But the first FREE video for visual note-taking is the one below – top five tips for new sketchnoters.

This video outlines five tips to get started visual note-taking:

  • use affordable, easily accessible materials (such as index cards, legal pads, and non-fancy blank sketchbook). It also discusses the advantages of the different materials.
  • have constraints (how to layout, use colour, which elements to use etc) so you can have a plan to approach the blank page.
  • know what you want to get out of the note-taking session so that you can filter our non-important ideas.
  • don’t worry about creating a pretty picture – visual note-taking is a way to get ideas down on paper – the ideas are more important than the pictures.
  • don’t let the image be the end of it – take your notes and do something with them, move on to ‘what’s next?’.

Verbal to visual #2

This second free visual note-taking video by Verbal to Visual is about grading students’ sketchbooks. The video addresses why you might like to grade their sketchbooks, and how that might work in practise.

Ways to grade sketch notes that are discussed include:

  • quantitative feedback: using a rubric with points assigned to different skills/tasks/information you want them to learn and explanation of what points are assigned for
  • qualitative feedback: giving general feedback about parts that students did well and parts that the student can improve next time
  • a blend of qualitative and quantitative feedback where students are assigned points for some parts and general feedback for other parts
  • self-assessment: getting students to assess their own work and look for opportunities to improve next time (which is an essential study skill)

This video also discusses why getting students to share visual notes is helpful.

Importantly, this video gives examples from an actual classroom. Students were assigned a task, given an assessment rubric, and then asked to complete the sketch notes. The video shows student examples of work.

The Happy Ever Crafter

This last free visual note-taking video is much longer, clocking in at about 1/2 hour viewing time. BUT it is worth the time (especially if you watch in 1.5/2x speed) because it gives great advice about how to start sketch noting even if you can’t draw. Topics covered include:

  • where and how to start
  • materials needed
  • types of sketch notes
  • the three main skills sketch noters need
  • the seven basic shapes you need to be able to sketch note
  • how to create a visual hierarchy and help your reader ‘flow’ through your notes in the order you want
  • how to refine your notes using elements such as colour, headings, size, connectors, containers and contrast

This video would be great to show students if you are wanting them to create a sketch note one-pager for an assessment.

The kid that wouldn’t work?

This young man was a brilliant artist, only I didn’t know it. He had a grungy, graffiti, abstract, comic-book style of illustration that was amazing.

One day I was marking his notebook and came across a storyboard drawing of his weekend.

He must’ve finished his work early at some point in the week (bare minimum, remember) and turned to drawing about being at the skate park with his friends.

I just knew that if I could get him drawing his notes he would go above and beyond. So, I hatched a plan.

My visual note-taking plan

I can’t draw (and because we’re all about the growth mindset nowadays, I’m going to say I can’t draw yet). You might’ve seen my attempts in earlier blogposts.

Now, just because I can’t draw, doesn’t mean I can’t use visuals. I can sketch diagrams; I can draw mind maps; I can organise information. Therefore, I can visual note-take.

Computer says yes!

(Like my joke?). I can also use a computer. So I decided to create a quick storyboard template. Then the next day in class we used the storyboards to plot the events in a short story we read.

My little artist went above and beyond. It was all in biro, because the cool kids don’t take coloured pens to class in high school, but it was fantastic.

There were characters, and settings, and shading. Oh my!

And there were details that I didn’t even think that students’ picked up on, such as the use of the weather to show the character’s feelings.

That familiar problem of the kid that can do the work but won’t: solved!

Want more?

Check back later for our FREE storyboard template.

Check out our TPT store for visual note-taking worksheets. These are scaffolded notes for the CrashCourse Study Skills and CrashCourse Literature videos.

Follow our visual note-taking pinterest board.

picture of coloured pencils and text about vibrant visual notes blogpost image