Drawing: The New Note-Taking

Good teachers are constantly on the lookout for ways to improve their students’ understanding of new material. Differentiation is a vital part of classroom success, as is considering the different learning styles of your students. While you may tend to lean towards one or a few teaching methods as your preferred approaches, you may need to make some room in your planning time to integrate a new approach: drawing. No, we’re not just talking to art teachers here. Drawing is being touted as the new note-taking for a number of reasons, the primary one being that it works! It helps students stay more focused, retain more information, stay organized, remain engaged longer, and so much more. The benefits of integrating drawing into note-taking are nearly endless, and we know you’ll be blown away by your students’ newfound interest in taking notes as you embrace drawing in the classroom.

More Than Doodling

Using drawing to take notes is about much more than doodling in the margins of the paper and zoning out from a lecture by coloring. It can be as simple or ornate as a student wishes, but the primary focus is to create a new way to physically see the information being taught. Some people call it “sketch notes,” which is a way of integrating words and language into an organizational structure that also includes drawings. Some companies, such as Doodle Notes, provide topical worksheets that can be colored, drawn on, written on, and personalized so students get the most out of their drawing note-taking. Drawing helps create a full story, whether that be the life cycle of water, the importance of World War II, or the application of literary devices in a particular story. Students can map out complex ideas in a way that they understanding, using spatial organization, visual representations, and so much more.

Improves Focus

When students are drawing diagrams or images, or when they’re creating visual representations of a concept, their mind is freer to listen to what’s being discussed in the classroom. They are less likely to let their mind wander to their after-school activities or what was talked about in the lunchroom. They keep their bodies busy and let their minds relax, freeing them up to absorb more information and stay more focused on the task at hand. Focus is greatly improved when students are responsible for their own note-taking and their own drawings that remind them of what they learned in class. It may be easy for students to copy word-focused notes from another student, but when pictures and visual images are part of the note-taking, they’re more likely to focus on their work and continue working until it’s complete.

Helps Retention

Studies have shown that drawing helps retention, which is the basic desire all teachers have for their students. A research study done by the University of Waterloo found that drawing helped individuals retain new information “better than re-writing notes, visualization exercises, or passively looking at images.” It has even helped older adults improve memory problems, including those with dementia. Another study tested individuals’ retention of information after allowing half of them to mindlessly and pointlessly doodle while listening to the information. This study found that the doodling group could recall 29% more of the information than the non-doodling group, showing that the physical act of drawing activates portions of the brain that enhance memory and information retention.

Helpful for Visual Learners

School can be challenging for visual learners especially, since most information is spoken aloud in the classroom. Visual learners often benefit from note-taking more than other types of learners, but drawing as a form of note-taking is especially helpful to those with visual learning styles. By allowing them to see a physical representation of a concept, their mind is able to grasp a more thorough understanding of the material and more easily recall it later. Even for students who are not primarily visual in nature, drawing is beneficial for all types of learners because it involves utilizing visual, spatial, verbal, semantic, and motor skills.

Keeps Notes Organized

Written notes can easily get overwhelming and disorganized, which can be a huge challenge for students when it comes time to study. Sketch notes are more easily organized since each individual page usually focuses on one concept or subject, making it easier for students to see immediately what each page is all about. Students also remember what the pages look like for the different concepts, so they have an easier time keeping their notes neat and orderly and they have an easier time finding the specific page that they need for studying.

Engages Creative Students

Drawing for note-taking will likely please the majority of your students, but it is more likely to engage your quiet and creative students more than you realize. Most of your students will probably stay pretty basic with their drawings, but those artistic and creative students will really embrace this new note-taking technique and will create stunning notes that will help them significantly. Since drawing helps retention, your quieter students will absorb and learn more information without having to be incredibly vocal during class, but they will still improve and learn a lot. The good news for your less creative students is that even “bad” drawing has been shown to improve information retention, so even simple doodles and sketches will help your students learn more.

Increases Personal Responsibility

When students are responsible for coming up with their own visual representations of concepts, they are more likely to remember how to apply those concepts. At the same time, when they’re responsible for recording those ideas and visuals themselves, they are more likely to retain the information. Drawing as a form of note-taking lets students explore what a concept means and how they can best remember it, which increases their personal responsibility for their learning and education. Students are often proud of their sketch notes and their ability to recall material, which further motivates them to work hard in school and improve their note-taking.