Sketchnotes in School: An Exit Card Activity

If you’re an educator using sketchnotes in your classroom and looking for a way to get your students to buy into the idea of visual note-taking, then this post is for you.

The Situation

Here’s the challenge: once students get past a particular age, they start to see drawing not as something that comes naturally but instead as an art form that has to look a certain way.

So when you try to introduce simple drawings and quick sketches as a form of note-taking, you’re likely to face resistance from at least some of your students.

At first, some students might be skeptical about the idea of drawing out their notes.

The particular activity that I’d like to share today is designed to help overcome that resistance.

Rather than giving a theoretical explanation for why sketchnoting is a useful way to take notes, I think they just need to see it for themselves.

Step 1: Exit Card Sketchnotes

There are two steps to this activity.

In the first step, I encourage you to set aside the last 5 to 10 minutes of a class period and find an engaging information source for your students to dig into (my thought is that video or audio will work best here).

Start with an exit card activity in which students draw out just a few notes on a single index card.

Give each student a single blank index card, and ask them to draw out a few notes connected to what they’re listening to or watching.

Emphasize that their drawings don’t have to look good! But there does have to be at least as much drawing on the card as there are words. (Yes, short written phrases are allowed.)

On their way out of class that day, they hand those cards in.

Step 2: What Do You Remember?

The next step in this process comes one week later, and it’s important that students don’t know that this step is coming. (I think it has the potential for a larger impact that way.)

After about a week has passed, hand back each index card to its creator and then ask them write out what they can remember based on what they see on that card.

One week later, hand back the cards and see what they remember.

They do this individually first, but then you can have a class discussion about how it went.

The hope is that at least some students will be surprised by how much they remember based on the rough and simple drawings they made on those index cards.

In that way, you might be able to help those students who were at first skeptical come to realize that drawing out their notes (even in a super simple form) is actually really helpful.

The ideal transformation: from skepticism to enthusiasm.

Even if students don’t have a dramatic reaction, there’s still a benefit to this type of experimentation and reflection: it’s going to help them realize what type of learner they are and what type of note-taking works best for them.

Before, During, & After Sketchnoting Instruction

This could even be a recurring activity that you do. You could include it before, during, and then after a few months of sketchnoting instruction.

That will help you to see both how their specific sketchnoting skills develop, and also how the development of those skills is tied to deeper leraning.

Let students see for themselve the value of sketchnoting.

The key with this activity is that you’ll be giving students the opportunity to see for themselves the value of visual note-taking.

Hopefully, once they’ve seen that, they’ll be more willing to jump in and continue developing these skills.

A Resource Kit for Educators

If you’d like some support with the sketchnoting instruction that you provide to your students, then check out 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.

So take a look at that, and do let me know if you try out this particular exit card activity!

I’d love to hear how it goes.