Sketchnoting in the History Classroom

What might it look like to weave sketchnoting into your history classroom? In the video above and post below I share five suggestions to get you started. If you’d like more support sharing the skill of sketchnoting with your students, then check out the resource kit Sketchnoting in the Classroom.


Timelines are a great visual representation of a sequence of events that occur over time. With digital tools you can use something like Concepts‘ infinite canvas to keep your timeline growing. Or you might dedicate a large chunk of your classroom wall for a timeline, with individual students or small groups adding events on index cards or sticky notes, drawing quick portraits of important people or key objects related to each event.


The flowchart is a less linear tool, which can help you get at cause and effect as you chart how one event or action causes a particular set of reactions down the line. With a flowchart you can go left-to-right as you likely would with a timeline, or a top-to-bottom approach might give you more flexibility as your causes and effects keep branching.

A handful of visual note-taking techniques that you might weave into the study of history.

Annotated Maps

l’m sure that maps already play a major role in your history classroom, but with sketchnoting you can add a layer of annotations to your maps to help link important moments in history to the locations of those events. Add labels and sketches directly on the map, or use the white space surrounding it with lines to specific locations.

Empathy Maps

Moving in a more abstract direction, we’ve got an empathy map to help you understand the perspective of an individual person or specific group of people. With a portrait in the center and spaces surrounding that person to identify what they’re thinking, hearing, seeing, saying, feeling, and even doing, this tool helps you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see the world from their perspective. To better understand a conflict you might create two empathy maps side by side. You might event add a time variable to your empathy map to chart the evolution of an individual or group over a specific period of time.

Mind Maps

A mind map is another diagram format that you might find useful, placing a person or event in the center and then branching out to address the big questions of who, what, why, when, and where. Within each node of that mind map you have the opportunity to experiment with the types of visuals we’ve been describing such as portraits, simple scenes, or even timelines and flowcharts.

With these types of visual tools you can bring history to life and help your students make connections that they might not have seen otherwise. I hope you enjoy experimenting with them in your own classroom!


If you’d like some additional support in sharing the skill of sketchnoting with your students, then check out the resource kit Sketchnoting in the Classroom:

Within that resource kit you’ll find individual skill lessons that are ready for you to play within your classroom and follow-up activities to help your students practice and then apply the new skills to whatever topics you’re exploring that week.

You can learn more about the resource kit here.

Happy sketchnoting,