What is the Visual Note Taking Strategy?

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Visual Note Taking with sketchnotes can bring a whole new learning element to your classroom. Students are able to enjoy note taking when using visual notes and tap into their artistic side.

What is the Visual Note Taking Strategy?

Note taking means to record information obtained from other sources (lectures, books, Internet) in a systematic manner. The practice of note taking allows students to review material without solely relying on their memory. Not all students have good note taking skills, and some would argue that the traditional method of note taking is not the most suitable method for all students.

The Visual Note Taking Strategy is defined as the process of representing information non-linguistically. This means through drawings or pictures. It can be simple using sketches or doodles or more complex using Mind mapping or Concept Maps as representations.

Why use the Visual Note Taking Strategy?

The following are the benefits of using the Visual Note Taking Strategy:

  • It improves the student’s retention, recall and understanding of information.
  • It engages all types of learners as students connect information obtained through all the sensory systems.
  • The drawings provide immediate feedback which enables teachers to correct or clarify thoughts.
  • The strategy helps students build connections between information and link the new knowledge to existing knowledge.
  • It is often more enjoyable and enhances learning in the classroom.

Components of the Visual Note Taking Strategy

The three main components of the Visual Note Taking Strategy are:

1. Text: The content is organized and written in terms of hierarchy and distinction. It enables students to identify the important details from the supporting details, and to remember important words.

2. Images:It is the translation of the words or information into recognizable pictures. This is where the student has creative license to represent the concepts in an artistic form.

3. Structure: It gives the notes direction and organizes the flow of the information. Charts and maps can bring about structure to the content and using these will help students identify relations between information.

Teaching the Visual Note Taking Strategy

The following points can be used to introduce the strategy in your classroom:

  • Illustrate: Students can be encouraged to explore their creativity when illustrating information. The only rule is that it should be comprehensible.
  • Recording information: The key topic or central theme is to be recorded in the center of the page. Other pieces of information are to be added surrounding this topic. Unfamiliar concepts or words can be written on one side of the page, under a title ‘further research,’ as a reminder for students to look them up. The importance of paraphrasing should be emphasized.
  •  Finding relations: Some information recorded may seem disconnected to the student. Encourage them to review the material and find connections and organize them. This can then be redrawn and represented using arrow marks, charts or graphs. This activity can be assigned in pairs or groups and will help to facilitate the development of critical analysis and reasoning.

There are many ways you can incorporate Visual Note Taking in your classroom including the following:

Teaching: Introduce the key topic before a lesson and ask students to list points and information they feel contribute to the topic. They can also state the elements they think should be covered in the lesson. The teacher then can visually represent these points while teaching. Use different colored markers to highlight key information and for linking sub topics. At the end of the class, students can be asked to explain the schema drawn on the board. Another method of using the strategy is to draw randomly placed pictures and words on one side of the board and following lesson, ask the students to reorganize the material on the other side according to the content.

Discussions: Conduct discussions using a white board in the classroom. Pick a student to be the artist. The student is instructed to represent the thoughts voiced from other students by drawing pictures on the board. Once the ideas are recorded, the class can look at the representations and determine the relations or links between the information. The role of the illustrator can be allotted in turns.

Assignments or Presentations: Instead of written content, students can be instructed to turn in their assignments or presentations using the Visual Note Taking Strategy. They can be instructed to include certain elements of a lesson to ensure that they were following along, or told to draw a picture that shows they understood the lesson.

Exit card strategy: With Visual Note Taking as an exit card, students are instructed to visually represent three key elements from the lesson or day on an exit card before leaving the classroom.

The Visual Note Taking Strategy can therefore be used for teaching, learning and even evaluating students’ learning when in the class.


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