Guest Post: Sketch Notes for Research

I'm so excited to share this guest post from 5th grade teacher, Margot Hatch! We work closely together, and she's a master at integrating technology meaningfully into the classroom. Margot has been using sketch notes with her 5th grade students this year, and it has had more of an impact on their learning than we ever could have imagined! Here is her story, student examples, and teaching strategies . . .

Sketch Notes for Research

One of the biggest struggles my 5th grade students face when doing research is being able to articulate their understanding of the research they have gathered, so I knew I had to find a way to incorporate something different to help meet their needs. I began by laying out research criteria with categories that I wanted them to investigate, along with guiding questions to help them with their research. As they were going through the research process, I noticed that it helped them, but it still wasn’t the transformation in the research process that I had hoped.  

Thankfully, I work with a phenomenal English Language Specialist that introduced me to Sketch Notes as a way for my students to put their thinking down using visual cues. They could sketch their thinking by using words and pictures that represent what they have learned.  It would allow ALL of my learners access to show off their learning regardless of their reading or writing level. BRILLANT!! I immediately scheduled a co-teaching session so we could teach my students together. I have never looked back since! In our first co-teaching session with the students, we showed this video to introduce them to concept of Sketch Notes.    

The first few sessions the English Language Specialist teacher and I did with Sketch Notes was just for the students to share something about themselves.  This way they were able to see how they could use it with ideas that came from their life experiences. Then I started thinking of ways I could transition them to use this when it came to their research process on our American Revolution Project Based Learning (PBL) assignment. First, I provided them with the transcript of a BrainPop video on the Thirteen Colonies we were going to see together.  This would allow all of the students to watch the video and then use the transcript later to remind them of what was covered. This worked like a charm! The students were able to listen to the information, and then use the transcript to write down specific dates, etc. that pertained to what they had learned about in that video. I have some students examples below of their sketch notes along their research journey.

The students continued using this strategy for taking notes the rest of the research process for the American Revolution PBL we completed.  I was blown away with how much they could tell me about each component they learned and how passionate they became on finding out various important parts.  When it came time to create their final products, they didn’t feel self conscious or uneasy about making something that would show off what they learned. The students partnered up to create a product of their choosing from a list of product choices I provided for them.  I was amazed at what they included in their products because they showed off a deeper level of understanding.

This process of using Sketch Notes made my students feel so much more confident as a researcher.  My English language learners and my special education students were able to really shine with this strategy.  In fact, it is now apart of one of my students IEP accommodations because Sketch Notes truly transformed his way of approaching and understanding research.  Now this student uses it in all subject areas because it helps him better understand the content he is learning. In the future, I am going to teach all of my classes how to use Sketch Notes as a way to visualize their learning in all subject areas, and as a way to use in the research process.  The possibilities are endless!

About the Author: Margot Hatch

I have been a teacher for 13 years. I currently teach 5th grade in a Title 1 school in the Denver area. I’ve had the privilege of being these students' fourth grade teacher last year as well.  I looped up with them to be their teacher in 5th grade this year. My classroom represents the multiple cultural backgrounds represented in my school, including nine students that are identified English language learners.  In addition, out of my twenty-seven 5th graders, I have seven students that are identified with special needs and have an individual education plan (IEP).

Check out more blog posts about Sketch Notes here: Close Reading With Sketch Notes and how to help your students cite their sources here: Do Your Students Know How to Cite Their Sources?

Thanks for reading!

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