Last week the first quarter spun to an end before, yet it was not without the completion of some special projects that none of us had ever attempted, projects all about student perspectives.Betsy Knorr, a fellow English teacher at Central, finds some unique projects from time to time and shares them with me. I love when we have time to hammer out how best to present them to our students. This is so rewarding for us as well as our students.
Betsy showed me this cool idea called “sketch notes” which we both decided to try with our English III students as we tackled the epic poem Beowulf. The basic premise of sketch notes is that the students concentrate on the content of a lecture or reading selection then create periodic notes which are quick pictures, stylized fonts, or unique bullets. This may look like simply doodling, but we both discovered sketch notes were much more.
So my classes and I read Beowulf slowly together. I would put a couple key words on the board as important ideas to consider. After that, I simply asked them to spend a few minutes creating a sketch note. As I moved around the room, I found each student creating a unique sketch note, an extension of his or her perspective of what we had just read aloud and discussed. We continued this same process, traveling through each part of the epic poem until we had eventually made a five to six page booklet of the entire poem.
The fascinating part of this entire endeavor is that all of my students were thoroughly engaged in this process. Typically reading a selection of this length can be a tedious process despite its adventrous plot. The note-taking itself is ominous to most students. This was a different process though, one which asks students to listen carefully, to consider what is significant to them, and to create a perspective they are comfortable expressing confidently and intelligently.