Capturing & Retaining Ideas Through Visual Note-taking

a.k.a Sketchnoting, Graphic Visualization or Edu-Sketching

“Bits and pieces of knowledge quickly go away.  Edu-Sketching helps meld those pieces together for a more coherent-thus, memorable-whole.”  Wendy Pillars

As teachers, you may be looking for ways to help your students remember the content they are learning about. Here is an excellent strategy that your students will love and allows for creativity.

Visual Note-taking

Visual Note-taking is a powerful tool that helps you capture your thinking through words and images.  When students use pictures and words to show the big ideas they have learned about, both sides of their brain are activated; the chances of them remembering that information doubles.  There is plenty of research to support the benefits of this.  Allan Paivio’s Dual Coding Theory says that both visual and verbal processing are essential to foster learning.  When both are activated at once, they work together so we are better able to understand and remember ideas.


  • Helps make the information students are learning about easier to remember.
  • Increases active listening.
  • Helps students think more deeply.
  • Allows students to capture their thinking and communicate it more clearly.
  • Increases concentration/focus on the topic.
  • More engaging than traditional notes.
  • Can be used by all levels of students in all subject areas.
  • Develops vocabulary in context.
  • Builds confidence.
  • Allows for individual creativity.
  • Develops visual literacy.

How To Start:

  • Show examples first by Googling images or videos of sketchnoting, visual note-taking or graphic visualization.
  • Start with a topic you and your students know a lot about and practice the strategy.
  • Focus on the main ideas to represent.
  • Brainstorm possible images for the main ideas together.
  • Can be used when listening (lecture, podcast, video, movie) and/or when reading new information (book, chapter, article).
  • Initially, stop the reader after short pieces of information and ask “What important information did you just read or hear and what could we draw to show that idea?”

Quick Tips:

  • Model and share your own examples to demonstrate the importance of risk-taking.
  • There is no ‘right way’ to do it – many different styles exist.
  • Practice visual note-taking in a variety of contexts/subject areas.
  • Use simple images to make connections to learning.
  • May choose to take ‘traditional’ notes first and then think of images that best represent the information and plan the layout design.
  • The quality of the symbols doesn’t matter.  This isn’t about the art, it’s about the ideas.


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