Visual Notes in the ESL Classroom

Visual Notes in the ESL Classroom

Learning is a rather complex and multilevel process. The teacher’s role is basically not only the transfer of the knowledge but also the implication of techniques and tools which helps to assimilate the material with ease. Visualization is one of those tools which helps learners to keep the information active and retrieve it better. Learners tend to acquire new information from different channels (audio, visual, kinesthetic, etc), and mostly remember the information which was acquired through certain emotional attachment. Visual notes help to obtain information better and stick it in our mind. Visual note-taking is the recording with both illustrations and texts in a creative way by using pictures, typography, lines, shapes. Therefore, teachers use visual notes a lot in ESL classrooms while planning lessons or arranging different classroom activities. Apart from being a very important tool of information retention, visual notetaking is a great way of adding a bit of fun and engagement. 

Let’s look at some examples of how visual notes can be used in the classroom.  

1. Sketch without boundaries

It is very important to repeat the information during a certain period of time, so a classroom poster presentation can be a great way of doing it. Sketchnotes (visual notes ) can be any size, so invite your students to cover your whiteboards (posters) with everything they’ve learned in a unit.  Then let them walk around and study the gallery of learning by comparing their posters with those created by their peers.

2. Sketch a book

From time to time it is a good idea to assign students a book/ a story to read. After reading the assigned material, they can do sketchnotes on it, taking note of the main ideas and essential quotations from there.  As a follow-up activity, they compare their work with their peers and decide on the main idea and the best quotations from the book. More artistic students can come up with interesting drawings with main heroes or actions from the book. 

3. Visual notes as a means of keeping a memorable diary

After covering certain grammar aspects (past tense, future forms) students can be asked to make a picture diary about how fun the place was, or how delicious the food was. They exchange visual diaries and the peers try to recapture the story behind the pictures. The authors tell which part their peers have guessed. In the same way, they can present their dream holiday (destination, accommodation) or house.  

4. Visual notes in brainstorming 

While beginning a new unit or preparing for a writing session students can be asked to brainstorm their ideas and associations in the form of sketchnotes and present their notes to the class. I used this technique quite a lot during my writing sessions and it added extra engagement and fun to the overall process. There were students who could express their associations in the form of drawings others preferred both texts and drawings. In both cases, the learning process was accompanied by a strong emotion link and therefore they were more into the topic and the further stages of the lesson passed smoothly.

To sum up, visual note-taking is a great tool used for information retention, acquisition of knowledge in a more engaging way and the review of past material. Nowadays apart from manual methods of creating visual notes, learners or teachers can also use digital sketch noting. In both cases, the results will be fruitful.

Follow this link to get more information on sketchnoting (visual note-taking).

Here are examples of sketch notes.

What type of visual notes do you implement in your classroom? How do they work?


Лиза Мардоян

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