Curriculum Design Part 2: The Clothesline Method - Verbal To Visual Video - Doug Neill - Stephen Pressfield - sketchnoting, visual thinking, doodling

Curriculum Design Part 2: The Clothesline Method

This is the second episode in a four-part series on using visual thinking tools to help you design a meaningful learning experience. You can view Part 1 here, Part 3 here, and Part 4 here.

With your high-level planning now complete, you’re ready to dig into the details of what your curriculum will look like.

We’re going to use one of my favorite visual tools to help us out with that work – the clothesline method, which I first described in this video.

The idea is to create for yourself a space (it could be a clothesline, a wall, the floor, or simply a big table) where you can rearrange and sequence your ideas about the topic you’re teaching.

Step #1: Get The Sequence Of Units In Order

Based on the work you did in Part 1, you should already have a decent idea of the starting point and the end point. The task now is to fill in all of that space in between with units that will bring about the particular transformation that you want your students to experience.

The beauty of the clothesline method is that in this brainstorming phase nothing is final – you can add, move, and delete units until you find a sequence that makes for a seamless flow from where your students are to where you want them to be.

Step #2: Flesh Out The Details

Once you’re happy with the sequence of units, you can start filling in the details, now moving vertically down from each as you brainstorm specific ideas and learning activities related to that unit.

It’s in this phase that you add depth to the curriculum, making sure that each unit has enough meat on its bones to serve its purpose in the overall transformation.

Curriculum Design Part 2: The Clothesline Method

Example: The Verbal To Visual Classroom Wall

As I was designing the curriculum for An Introduction To Visual Note-Taking, I used a wall instead of a clothesline:

The VTV Wall

I spent about a week building up the ideas on that wall.

Insights would often come when I was away from it, out on a run or chatting with friends. It was great to know that I could return to that wall and add the idea in the appropriate spot, and then (just as important) see how well it fit in with the ideas that were already there.

After brainstorming ideas for each of the units by moving vertically downward, I started creating summary pages (see the larger pieces of paper in the lower left of the photo) to pull those ideas together in preparation for the next step – the production of the learning materials.

It’s that step that we’ll be exploring tomorrow.

But first, find your own wall and start filling it with ideas.

[April 2017 Update: I’m currently building a resource kit called Sketchnoting In The Classroom for educators who want to help their students develop visual note-taking skills. If that sounds interesting, take a look!]


Want To Dig Deeper?

If you’re new to the idea of sketchnoting and excited to develop more visual thinking tools, I think you’d enjoy our foundational course An Introduction To Visual Note-Taking.

If you’d like to make sketchnoted videos like the one you saw here, we’ve got a course for that too! Check out How To Make Sketchnote Videos.

And if you’re an educator interested in bringing visual note-taking into your classroom, check out Sketchnoting In The Classroom.