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Sketchnoting in the Classroom

Visual note taking is a way to actively listen and keep student brains (and hands) occupied while listening.  Best of all

Students LOVE It!!

 Select a fiction novel that has vivid descriptions, a unique setting and delightful characters that will lend themselves well to the act of visual note taking as the novel is read aloud. 

What is Sketchnoting?

Sketchnotes are purposeful doodling while listening to something interesting. Sketchnotes don't require a high level of drawing skills, but help students make connections to text, visualize and summarize their listening experience.

Sketchnotes are a note taking strategy AND form of creative expression.
Visual Note Taking

Sketchnoting Tips

Introducing sketchnoting to students can seem like a daunting task at first; placing that BLANK sheet of paper in front of a student. But giving students a nudge and MODELING the sketchnoting process yourself (even if you are NOT artistic!) is a great way to guide them in the process. Most importantly, SHARE! Take pictures of student work. Let students show and explain their work to the class. They will naturally inspire each other to add details and embellish their own work for display.

How To Get Started

Step #1. Distribute PLAIN paper. Allow students to sketch in pen OR pencil. Whatever writing utensil they’re MOST comfortable with.

Step #2. Arm them with suggestions...teach them something NEW! I started by showing them: 

Step #3. Read!! Occasionally pause during the reading to point out an interesting image that you’d like to draw (but you can’t because you’re reading!) That will undoubtedly inspire students to try to create the image themselves.   After a few chapters, students can take turns reading and sharing their notes with a partner after reading...this is a GREAT way to solidify understanding and review of story events.

Step #4. Provide a list of difficult to spell character names, setting(s), etc. Students are listening, they aren't looking at the words so they’ll need access to the spellings of names to add to their notes.

Step #5.  Comment on the author's craft as you read.  Point out personification, allusions, vivid descriptions, characterization and other features of the writing and follow up with mini-lessons to support student understanding.

How WE Did It!

In our class we read the novel "All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook".   I began by modeling some basic Sketchnote taking strategies and showing my personal notes that I made for the first few chapters.  Students listened to the story and sketched away! We routinely shared our drawings and I took many photos.  
 Student Examples:

(Did I mention these are SIX GRADERS???!?!) . 🙌

Visual note taking will make students take note (literally), and you'll be:

The Marvelous Merge Cube in the Classroom

 Do you have a Merge Cube?  What are you waiting for????  Need a Merge Cube Lesson Plan?

Merge Cubes are one of the hottest new trends in Educational Technology at the moment.  Integrating AR/VR principles, a merge cube allows you to hold a hologram IN YOUR HAND!!  The Merge Cube is basically a Augmented Reality trigger.  Each side of the cube has a distinct pattern which is recognized by the Merge Cube suite of apps.

When a Merge Cube app is launched and you aim your digital device at the cube........TA DAAAAA!

You can hold a skull in your hand:

Explore the Solar System:

You can dig like a Minecraft explorer:

You can squeeze cheese, explore the solar system, study human anatomy aaaaaand so much more!!  These features can be viewed through VR googles to enhance the experience as well.

If you DO own a Merge Cube, congratulations!!  I know that I loaded up when I saw them on sale at Walmart for $1 (that's right, $1!!).

and in case you need it, here's a printable Merge Cube:

Loading up on Merge Cubes was one thing, but launching them in the classroom to provide a MEANINGFUL learning experience was another!  Sure they're cool, but HOW can I integrate them??

Let's begin by exploring the PLETHORA  (and growing list) of apps that work with Merge Cube.  At last count, there were 27!! See the list here

Introducing Merge Cube to My Students

When the stack of Mergecubes showed up in my classroom, they definitely caused a stir.

"Is that the illuminati symbol?"
"Can I touch it?"
"Oooooo it's spongy!"
"What's that for?"
"When are we going to use that?!?"

My favorite was a student that asked me EVERYDAY when we were going to use it saying,

"This is the first time I've EVER been 
excited about coming to school!"

Oh the drama of a sixth grader...🙄

FIVE Merge Cube Lesson Plans!

Objective:  Students will be able to write sentences that explain evidence using transitional phrases instead of the word because.


Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

Use words, phrases, and clauses to clarify the relationships among claim(s) and reasons.

Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.

Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
Body of the Lesson:

  • Distribute Merge Cube Lesson Plan "The Power of Because".  Teach the concept of being a writer that explains evidence in a sophisticated way.  
  • Explain what the Merge Cube is
  • Show the MAIN features of the DIG App and tell students what it is used for.  Discuss the building components and do a small demonstration for the class.  
  • Have students prototype a design that they intend on building on the Merge Cube.
  • When the prototypes are finished, allow for building time.

(The learning curve is very flat.  For the most part, my students took to the building platform right away with very few questions.)

  • After the building time, regroup.  Share/explain student builds (if time allows)
  • Students will consider HOW their dig design turned out.  Invariably, it is different from the build that they conceived in their prototype.  
  • Have students identify 6 elements of their build and EXPLAIN why they turned out that way using the "beyond because" writing stems that they've been provided.

My fence didn't turn out as tall as I wanted due to the fact that I ran out of time. 
I built an enormous lake in the center of the field as a result of the blue cubes in the builder's components.

Undoubtedly, students were excited and engaged.  There was an intense focus and silence for the time period in which they were building in the Merge Cube.  There were also a few moments of frustration when what they visualized was NOT the same as what they were able to create.  This was a manageable level of frustration and was something that I anticipated for it allowed a greater depth of evidence to write about in response to the question "Why did your DIG turn out the way it did." Students were given space to explain what went right (and wrong!) Especially when I called 'time' when they've continued building for the next hour given the chance.!!!!

So I recommend giving this a try.  If you do, you'll be:

STEM Project: Shamrock Circuit!

Certainly circuits seem intimidating at first, but honestly with a little patience and the right materials you can learn how to create a circuit and launch creative STEM learning experiences into your classroom!

I am presently working with my school librarian to set up a MakerSpace for my school and it is definitely QUITE a project.  Harvesting donations, acquiring storage space, establishing a vision, securing and funding supplies/materials and many other tasks loom large on my MakerSpace 'to do' list.

Convinced I would NOT become overwhelmed (I teach ELA and social studies too...😳), I decided to start small by creating a monthly STEM challenge.

Each month, a STEM challenge box will be waiting for students in the MakerSpace area in the library.  Students are invited to tackle the challenge.  Successful students must submit a reflection sheet:

Once students complete the project and submit their reflection sheet, they earn the monthly MakerSpace Challenge badge and have their name listed on the wall of fame!!

Badge created with

With rosey cheeks (enhanced by LEDs) and a cute little grin, I'm confident this lucky charmer will win my students over!

The whole concept of circuits was a bit intimidating to me at first, but the web is filled with valuable resources to make circuitry projects approachable for virtually ANYONE!  Some of the best resources I canvased to make this project were:  Makerspaces, MakeSparkFun and Instructables.

Each site provides excellent FREE printables, downloadable materials and instructions to get yourself launched into the world of the paper circuit.

My version of a paper circuit is this Shamrock circuit and it is a GREAT way to bring a robust STEM learning experience into your classroom!

Get the template here!!

Materials Needed:

1 Shamrock template sheet 
<--click get="" p="" to="" yours=""><----download br="" here="" yours="">●1 coin battery
●Copper Tape with conductive adhesive
●2 LED lights (Light Emitting Diode)
●Regular Adhesive Tape
●Binder Clip
●Reflection Sheet
●Markers/colored pencils for added decoration


  • Establish a parallel circuit by adhering the copper tape from the battery resting place along the guidelines on the template
  • Punch through 2 LED lights to form the 'cheeks'
  • Spread the LED terminals so that the longer one touches the + side and the shorter one touches the - side.  Tape in place.
  • Place battery + side up on the marked location
  • Fold corner along the foldline to connect the copper to the battery and clip with a binder clip to secure.
  • Decorate.
Want more?   

Certainly circuits are worth trying, as long as you're:

✨Using Your Smarticles✨

Need materials?  Here are my Amazon affiliate links:

Copper Tape:

Bullet Face Copper Foil Tape with Double-sided Conductive (1/4inch X 21.8yards)- EMI Shielding,Stained Glass,Soldering,Electrical Repairs,Slug Repellent,Paper Circuits,Grounding (1/4inch)


LED Diode, CO RODE 3mm 5mm LED Lights Emitting Diodes Assorted Clear Bulbs Kit with (White Red Blue Green Yellow, 300-Pack)

Nickel Batteries:

50 Pack 3V High capacity Lithium Button Coin Cell Batteries CR2032 DL2032 ECR2032 GPCR2032 Used in most electronic devices