Minds in Bloom is thrilled to welcome Brigid from Math Giraffe to the blog today! Brigid is sharing her insight on an up-and-coming trend in education: doodle notes!
Do you have students who doodle in class? Have you ever assumed that they are not paying attention?
You may be surprised to find out that the opposite might be true. As far as learning goes, these doodling students may be onto something. A recent study by psychologist Jackie Andrade revealed some fascinating information about the activity in our brains when we doodle.
In the study, which is being published in the journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology, two groups of people in two different rooms listened to a recording of a long, boring phone conversation.
One group was allowed to doodle while they listened. The woman on the recording rambled on and on about a party and listed people who were coming. She also babbled about weather, houses, and vacation.
At the end of the recording, the papers were taken away, and the participants were asked to recall the information that they heard. The doodlers far outperformed the non-doodlers, reporting back 29% more facts that they could recall in comparison to those who did not doodle while listening.
This is partially because doodling does not use much “executive” brainpower, but it does activate the brain. It requires just enough cognitive effort to help you be attentive, learn, and remember, leading to an increase in retention.
In combination with these newly discovered benefits of doodling, more brain research has also been revealed about the merits of coloring, as well.
The brain is divided into two hemispheres. Between the left and the right sides of the brain lies a bundle of neural fibers called the corpus callosum.
Our goal as teachers should be to integrate the left brain and the right brain and encourage communication across the corpus callosum. Whenever you achieve a crossover between the two hemispheres of the brain, student learning is enhanced.
Integrating color into the classroom experience activates both hemispheres of the brain at the same time. When a student engages in coloring, doodling, or artistic embellishment of their lesson material, the two sides of the brain work together.
This collaboration across the corpus callosum has numerous benefits for the student learning process.
Effects of Cross-Lateral Brain Activity:
- Problem solving
To maximize the effects of these benefits, a special blend of characteristics is required. A strategy I call “doodle notes” combines:
- purposeful coloring,
- customized student tasks,
- and specially designed visual triggers
to create the perfect left-brain/right- brain interactive note-taking experience!
The doodle note strategy is backed by research and offers a fun but rigorous combination of interactive note-taking and brain-boosting!
What Do Doodle Notes Pages Have/Do?
They have all the best features of a graphic organizer or guided note sheet but with brain-friendly upgrades. When working through a doodle note page, students complete a variety of tasks, including coloring, doodling, and embellishing. They are introduced to new information, perform tasks, practice new skills, and build memory connections in their brains.
Visual analogies are embedded into the page. Strategic memory triggers are another key visual feature.
Doodle note pages blend brain research with high student engagement to maximize learning and retention. The student’s pride in ownership, relaxation in class, and easy implementation for the teacher are all just bonuses!
When interacting with a doodle note page, students complete teacher-designed tasks that are structured to maximize the understanding and retention of new material.
Students can shape vocabulary terms into a diagram, doodle and color special memory triggers, or form brain connections through visual analogies.
The act of artistically engaging with a well-designed doodle note page while the teacher lectures combines visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning all in one student experience. Plus, the cross-lateral brain benefits increase the strength of those connections!
Customized student tasks like these take a doodle note to a whole new level. When a teacher can incorporate a special task for the students to do, it increases the level of interactivity.
How to Actually Use Doodle Notes in Your Own Classroom
Doodle notes are really versatile! The best way to use them really depends on your own students and your classroom culture.
There are really no “right ways” or “wrong ways” to teach with doodle notes. Be flexible, because you’ll be amazed how that one kid who has never been engaged in your class is suddenly focused, excited, and begging for more!
However, for those just starting out, I’ve collected a few tips that you can use as you explore your own style for implementing doodle notes.
1. Include it in your regular lecture or lesson.
Keep the research in mind as you plan how to use any doodling or coloring strategy in class. Keep your focus on the brain benefits as you guide your students through these. To maximize the benefits, the sketching, doodling, or coloring should occur while the students are also getting verbal/auditory input. Remember that in the study with the phone conversation, scientists learned that the act of coloring or doodling requires just enough focus to keep you from zoning out but not enough to actually distract you. So, to maximize that effect, there should be focused, active teaching occurring during the doodle note lesson. It is not just a coloring page. There need to be visual connections on which to build.
2. Model with a teacher copy of doodle notes on display.
Try using your projector to display a blank copy of the same doodle page that you hand out. Then, go through and add your regular notes onto your teacher page as you teach the lesson. While you complete your page, talk through the lesson and lecture as you normally would. You can keep your page very simple. Talk while you model the concept and examples, just as you normally would. Students will have plenty of time while you explain to embellish their pages. You won’t need to model the doodling and coloring. That’s where their own creativity comes in. An entire room full of right brain hemispheres will automatically activate and get excited to make the page their own as soon as you let them know they’re allowed.
3. Show a completed student sample.
Give your class an idea of what the goals are. Some kids will need just a little guidance, or official permission, to do whatever they want on their own page. You really do want to encourage and allow personalization and creativity. So, the first few times you use a doodle note approach, show a student sample just briefly to give them the idea.
4. Set time limitations.
When it is time to cut off the lecture or the lesson, be sure to stop, just as you would have with regular notes. Move on to the next piece of your lesson plan. Students who want to add to it can do so later during free time or at home. Don’t add class time just for coloring. That is not the purpose. If students do want to color more, embellish the entire page, or add a million little doodle spirals, that’s fine. But once the learning and teaching portion is over, the brain benefits start decreasing. Coloring the corners afterward is not the same valuable use of class time that completing the note sheet was. Guide your class to doodle AS they fill the page, during the moments that they are still listening and learning. Let them do fancy lettering of a vocabulary word to help it stick in their minds. Let them color ideas that go together using the same pattern. Show them how to focus in on the visual triggers that will stick in their brain.
5. Explicitly teach the brain benefits.
Get your class on board with this new learning strategy right away! They will already automatically love the experience of doodling on the page, but you can teach them the brain research too! They will be excited to try the approach and then will start noticing the brain effects happening! (This “Engage Your Brain” page is free to download! Use it to introduce your students to the benefits of coloring, sketching, and doodling in class!)
To learn more strategies for teaching with doodling and coloring and to learn how to create your own doodle note lessons, download the complete free Doodle Note Handbook.
Brigid (Math Giraffe) has taught a wide range of grade levels from 5th grade all the way up through high school. She is passionate about finding the perfect blend of fun and rigor, and loves to try new and creative approaches to teaching math. Connect with Brigid on her blog and in her TPT store, and learn more about doodle notes.