Grading Sketchnotes: Rubric & Student Examples - Verbal to Visual, Doug Neill

Grading Sketchnotes: Rubric & Student Examples

As more and more teachers start to share the skill of sketchnoting with their students, a question that naturally comes up is this one:

Should you be grading your students’ sketchnotes? And if so, how?

Those are the questions that we’ll be exploring in this post.

Why Grade Students’ Sketchnotes?

I think that there are two good reasons that you might want to assess your students’ sketchnotes in some way.

A few reasons why you might consider grading your students’ sketchnotes.

The first is connected to a student’s current note-taking style. By providing feedback on their current approach, you can help them build on what’s already working well by pointing out opportunities for improvement.

The second reason is particularly relevant with sketchnoting: with transparent grading practices, you can encourage students to try out techniques they might not otherwise use (and, in some cases, realize that they find those techniques useful).

Did I Do It Right?

With that as a starting point, let’s address the question, “What makes for good sketchnotes?”

Here I’d like to bring in Rachel Smith‘s perspective, from her TEDx Talk Drawing in class:

Here’s the response that she gives to that question of whether or not you’re doing visual note-taking right:

Wondering if you did visual note-taking right? Here’s how you can tell.

Can you look at your notes and tell back the story?

If so, you’re doing it right.

While I appreciate the simplicity of that approach, you can add some nuance by asking how well can you tell the story?

That’s where the benefit of grading can come in, which will encourage your students to try out new note-taking techniques that help them move more and more to the right along the spectrum.

How To Grade Sketchnotes

Let’s look at a few different approaches to grading sketchnotes.

Rubric

You might start with a rubric, within which you identify a handful of things that you’d like your student to focus on, giving each a written description and point value.

The benefits of using a simple rubric to evaluate your students’ sketchnotes.

The benefit of using a rubric is that it ensures that students get experience with specific sketchnoting elements (when they see the rubric before the sketchnoting session), and then based on the scores they get it helps them know what to pay more attention to next time.

Qualitative

You might also consider an approach that’s less quantitative and more qualitative.

A qualitative approach to grading could be just as helpful.

In this case, you could break the feedback into two sections: a nicely done section in which you reinforce the positive aspects on the sketchnotes, and a try this next section in which you point out opportunities for growth.

Self-Assessment

No matter the particular grading system you choose to use, you might build in some self-assessment as well.

Give your students the opportunity to assess their own work!

By giving each student the opportunity to evaluate their own sketchnotes, you help them develop an internal feedback loop that could serve them well in the moment and in the future.

Sharing Sketchnotes with the Class

I also wanted to mention the benefits of having students share their sketchnotes with their classmates, maybe within small groups or with the entire class.

When students share their sketchnotes with the class, they’ll likely pass on helpful techniques to their peers.

Not only will that give the student sharing the opportunity to share the story behind their notes, it will also give every other student the chance to see some techniques that they might want to weave into their own note-taking.

A Sample Rubric

Over the past few weeks I’ve been chatting over email with Ms. Freeman, who teaches 9th Grade English at Marsing High School in Idaho and was kind enough to share a rubric that she has used to grade her students’ sketchnotes, as well as a bunch of student examples! 

The sketchnoting rubric used by Ms. Freeman in her 9th Grade English class.

Within this rubric, you can see some elements related to the content of the notes (a culminating project after reading the first stage of a story) – things about the setting, characters, conflicts, expectations and reality.

But then you can also see how she outlined specific note-taking elements that she wanted her students to use: a few quotes, three images or one scene, and a summary statement.

I like that combination of elements, and I can imagine it was helpful for her students as well.

Student Examples

Let’s now take a look at some student sketchnotes from Ms. Freeman’s class!

For each I’ve added just a few comments that fall into the nicely done category that I mentioned earlier. 

Nice big bubble letters to identify the different sections of the notes, each of which are grouped in a clear way, and great handwriting. Well done on the broken light bulb!

I love the single detailed scene in the center of the page and the nicely organized text around it, clearly separated with boxes. Again those broken light bulbs. (Both work – the close-up detailed from the first example and the smaller multiple broken bulbs in the context of the full scene).

This one feels more like a mind map. I like the thicker marker for the title and the blue to separate the sections, as well as the helpful elements within each section like bullet points and arrows.

Again we see a thick marker for the title and to separate the different sections, that seems helpful. Recurring theme here: clear organization of thoughts. That alone, regardless of the amount of visuals, is one of the most helpful things about visual note-taking. Nice job on the broken bulb again!

This one looks fun – adding some character and style to the title. Love the arrows as containers for “Expectation” and “Reality.” I’m also noticing different-styled containers for each set of ideas, and how that could be helpful.

Again a bit of a mind map approach on this one. Nice combination of smaller icons throughout and one larger scene. Cool how the quotes are in a cursive font to help them stand out. DNA strands as separators (also very cool) and I think represent the werewolf human dynamic going on in the story.

Good use of a handful of different colors and pen sizes. Also nice hierarchy in text size: the title big, the section headers bold, and then the rest of the text in normal handwriting. Cool use of scene elements used as separators with the water and the boat helping to organize the text around it.

Very clear organization on this one! Nice balance and symmetry with the eight sections. Love the use of a strong image as a container for the main title (I think that a tranquilizer plays in a big role in the story). Nice light use of color in the background for each section. Nice variation among the sections – a few scenes, a few stand-out quotes, a few with more detailed text description. Makes for a great capturing overall.

Thank you to Ms. Freeman and her students for sharing that rubric and those examples with us!

A Resource Kit for Educators

I hope that it was helpful to see those general and specific approaches to grading your students’ sketchnotes. Do feel free to take any ideas you like and run with them in your own classroom!

If you’d like some support on the sketchnoting instruction side of things, then you might enjoy the resource kit that I built called Sketchnoting in the Classroom:

Add sketchnoting to your toolkit as an instructor as you help your students develop their own visual thinking skills.

That kit includes short video lessons and follow-up activities designed for you to use alongside the content that you’re teaching that day.

You can also check out our full course library here.

Thanks for sharing this valuable skill with your students!

Cheers,

-Doug