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.
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:
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.
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 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.
You might also consider an approach that’s less quantitative and more qualitative.
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.
No matter the particular grading system you choose to use, you might build in some self-assessment as well.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
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
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!