Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On Doodling

Do your students like to doodle? Do you? What some might see as an off-task, even disrespectful behavior, I see as a way to process information. A way to make thinking visible.

My colleagues are used to my crazy notebook, pictured above (click on photo to enlarge). They don't bat an eye when I'm sitting in a formal meeting or important keynote address and I take out my Flair pens and manuscript book. With paper and pens at my disposal, I can focus. I can relax. I can think.

I'm not alone in my need to turn the audible into the visible. A few years ago I read a BBC article about how British Prime Minister Tony Blair was criticized when he inadvertently left some of his doodles on a table at Number 10 Downing Street. Those same critics were left speechless when it was discovered that the doodles didn't belong to Tony Blair at all. Instead, they were the creation of a guy named Bill Gates!

For two centuries, U.S. Presidents have doodled during critical briefings and while strategizing and brainstorming. Presidential Doodles showcases sketches from George Washington to George W. Bush, and almost every president in between. I was happy to discover this book. It lends a scholarly view to the practice that some of us, adults and kids alike, can't live without.

So what does this mean for classroom instruction? A recent study suggests that doodling aids in memory recall. Those who doodled while listening to information recalled 29% more than those who tried to attend without pen in hand. Consider asking students to sketch their way through a lecture, dry textbook passage or PowerPoint presentation. Allow students to create logos or other graphic representations of their learning, to aid in the synthesizing of new information. Encourage the use of color, creative font and multi-directionality on the page. Student engagement and motivation are sure to rise!

If you're a doodler, feel affirmed. If you're not, it's never too late. You, too, can join the ranks of John F. Kennedy and Bill Gates!


PS A shout-out to amazing educator Ian Jukes! Your recent keynote address in Columbus, Ohio inspired a page of colorful doodles and a mind full of new thinking for me. See Ian's signature right smack dab in the center of the photo.

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