Friday, July 22, 2016

Sketch Your Thinking

Sketch Your Thinking

Dear Readers,

As a Language and Literacy Teacher, I have always used anchor charts in my classroom. They serve as a "blueprint" of instruction and the main purpose is to develop independent thinkers and learners. I consider my walls "living" in that they change throughout the year as we embark on our learning journey.

A few months ago, I was first introduced to Sketchnotes by Stacey Lindes (@iruntech) during her 100 day challenge. I started paying attention to posts on Twitter.  One day while skimming through, I saw a few from #ISTE2016.

It paused me to stop and reflect. I have been creating "thinking charts" for years. Was there a way to improve upon my practice? I have always thought of them as putting my thought process into a visual representation. It is essential for students (and teachers) to see the process and/or planning to reach an end product and/or goal. 

A problem I often have is the number of charts I create. Would I be able to condense some of those into one chart depicting a process instead of several?


I spent quite a bit of time interacting with LAUNCH as I prepared for the book discussion.  I was drawn to the visual representation of the LAUNCH Cycle. I had read where Sketchnotes were used to capture ideas while reading or listening for professional development. I tried it out with LAUNCH. 
  • I knew that I was going to set it up similar to the LAUNCH Cycle in a clockwise direction. 
  • I work well using key words, ideas and phrases.
  • My mind organizes information in categories with bulleted lists.
  • My mind thinks in words/language, it does not think in numbers and rarely in pictures.
  • I like to group things together using boxes or "clouds", in addition to highlighting/starring key concepts.
What you see, is a first/final draft of my first ever sketchnote! It came so naturally to me! A few things I learned:
  • Rewriting the information in a way that made sense to me, made me engage with it even deeper.
  • I was able to capture everything I deemed important in one chart.
  • A student who knew nothing about LAUNCH was able to identify it was a process or steps of some sort. It made sense to one of my students.
  • I was able to include quotes, character traits, etc. that I wanted to remember.
When I stand back and view it, I captured the LAUNCH Cycle in a way that was meaningful to me.

My next step, would I be able to do this "live" in front of students?

Genius Hour

As a summer enrichment class, I offered a 2hourX3days Genius Hour type class. (I am going to skip ahead to day two for a moment.) I decided to try creating a Sketchnote live with the students. I told them it was the first time I was trying it and we would see how it went! Of course, they were on board and came along for the ride!

I took a different approach and was not entirely sure where I was headed until I started. This time I started counter clockwise and we talked about what research is and different resources. We also discussed bias, opinion, agenda, etc. (Have you ever asked students what research is? Try it, you will get interesting responses.)

We were talking about building stamina, so I geared our key concepts and ideas toward the process of research stamina. On the right, we broke down how we actually engage in the research process. I learned:
  • Students think they are going through the entire process, but actually might be missing key steps, such as planning!
  • Deciding on a topic and formulating a question (more to come on that in a moment) take time. 
  • They need to realize their question can be revised, many times if needed, they do not need to go back to the drawing board. It is truly a process and steps can be repeated as often as necessary.
  • One student said, "That's what is in my mind. It's what we are thinking."
  • I often think back to something Lisa Eickholdt (@LisaEickholdt) tweeted once. "If we do not show students what is happening in our minds, think aloud for them, they think we can do something they cannot do." The visuals help them connect to us as learners too. They see that their thought process is similar to ours.
This Sketchnote was not planned (other than the topic: Research Stamina) and was created on the spot with students. 

Important Reflection: I realized as I created these that they also depict what thinking is, messy! It shows students that the creative process, the research process, any learning process is messy! It gives them permission to think that way as well!

Anchor Charts Turned Sketchnotes

On the left, you see my day 1 anchor charts (total=4) and on the right, my days 2 and 3 sketchnotes. I wanted to capture all the work we did designing a research question. I use the word design because it truly is a process that takes time, creative thinking and patience. Here is what I came up with:


Again, I went in a clockwise direction. I learned:
  • It is powerful to see the process like this. We started with a topic, narrowed those topics, created questions, revised the questions and decided on a question to start with.
  • It is important not to call the end result "the final question" because they then move to the research phase where they can revise the questions as often as needed.
  • It really shows the thinking process of creating a question that can be researched.

A Perfectly Messed Up Story

One of my all-time favorite picture books is A Perfectly Messed Up Story. The main character is attempting to write a story, but he keeps getting interrupted or peanut butter and jelly are falling on the page. However, at the end he learns an important lesson. Writing is a process and stories can be started, interrupted, revised and continued. 

Just like our thinking. Thinking is messy and we need to empower our students with the skills/strategies to become independent thinkers and learners. They need to be able to ask questions, relevant and thought provoking questions. They need to see our thinking as a model. 

Are we preparing them for their futures with the appropriate skills/strategies? Would you be able to teach students how to design thought provoking, powerful questions?