Monday, August 03, 2020

#MTBoSBlaugust - Visual Notebooks

In the spring of 2017 I decided to have students keep a visual notebook for a class assignment. Prior to this, other forms of journals or notebooks included interactive notebooks, double-entry journals, important books, and commonplace books.

I keep a visual notebook along with my students each semester. (I could call these sketchnotes, but because students also  solve problems and complete reflections in these notebooks, I was looking for a more comprehensive term.) Most students are overwhelmed by this assignment in the beginning, but they ultimately embrace the challenge and create notes that far outshine my own. This is particularly satisfying because many of them enter class with a fear of or dislike for mathematics. 

On the first day of class, students receive this visual notebook overview. 
Good mathematics teachers typically use visuals, manipulatives and motion to enhance students’ understanding of mathematical concepts. National organizations, such as the National Council for the Teaching of Mathematics (NCTM) and the Mathematical Association of America (MAA) have long advocated for the use of multiple representations in students’ learning of mathematics. However, for many students in mathematics classes, math is presented as an almost entirely numeric and symbolic subject, with a multitude of missed opportunities to develop visual understandings. 

Recent research indicates that teachers who emphasize visual mathematics and who use well-chosen manipulatives encourage higher achievement for students, not only in elementary school (Reimer, 2005) but middle school, high school and college (Sowell, 1989). 

To engage students in productive visual thinking, they should be asked, at regular intervals, how they see mathematical ideas, and to draw what they see. Drawing mathematical ideas helps mathematics users of any level, including mathematicians, to formulate ideas and develop understandings.

Studies show that we understand things more deeply when we see them from multiple perspectives. Drawing what you have understood from a reading passage, drawing the science experiment you have just done or drawing the detail of an autumn leaf are all examples of engaging with the same learning from a different angle. Compared with writing alone, adding drawings to notes to represent concepts, terms, and relationships has a significant effect on memory and learning (Wammes, Meade, & Fernandes, 2016). Additionally, the benefits of drawing were not dependent on the students’ level of artistic talent, suggesting that this strategy may work for all students, not just ones who are able to draw well.

Reimer, K. & Moyer, P. (2005). Third-graders learn about fractions using virtual manipulatives: A classroom study. Journal of Computers in Mathematics & Science Teaching; 24(1), 5-25.

Sowell, E. J. (1989). Effects of manipulative materials in mathematics instruction. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 20(5), 498.

Wammes, J.D., Meade, M.E., & Fernandes, M.A. (2016). The drawing effect: Evidence for reliable and robust memory benefits in free recall. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 69(9)
I talk a bit about dual coding theory and explain to students that in the context of their own learning and development as a teacher that they must learn to embrace visual literacy as a way of knowing. We then watch the video below and practice making visual notes. We then share our notes and discuss the ideas that stood out for us and the ways we represented them.

Here's an example of my note page.
And here is what my students produced.

Students then receive this single point rubric to guide them as they complete their entries. I also share with them the page of resources devoted to visual notetaking on our class web site.
Students spend a lot of time stressing about the "art" aspects of the notebook. I try to encourage them to keep in mind that their notes are about ideas, not art. I tell them they do not need to be pretty or perfect. It's one of the reasons I notebook along with them, as I draw a lot of stick figures.

Students bring their notebooks to class each week and we begin class in small groups with students sharing and talking through their entries. In this way they are activating prior knowledge, reviewing the content from the previous week, and previewing the work to come. At the end of the semester, they complete a final notebook reflection on their big takeaways from the semester.

Here are some examples of those final entries.

This summer, even though my class was fully online, students still kept visual notebooks. They photographed and uploaded their images for review.  We didn't have opportunities to share and discuss them like I wanted, and I think this lack of sharing really impacted how students viewed their usefulness. I'm thinking hard about what this should look like in the fall and how I can continue to encourage students to doodle their way to understanding.

That's it for day 3 of #MTBoSBlaugust. I hope you'll come back tomorrow to see what else I have to share.

1 comment:

  1. This has some really good things for me to ponder as I try to figure out the notebook for my class. Thanks for sharing and for reminding me of the one-point rubric!