in which I sketchnote all the things

Quick Links to Sketchnote posts from NCTM 2015:

I’ll be working through these of the course of this week. I plan to post the sketchnote itself and then some of my thoughts on the session along with any relevant links. If you are interested in reading more about how I got into sketchnoting, head below the jump.

My new art hobby is hand-drawn typography and while looking at some of the lovely examples online I ran across sketchnotes. The idea of combining aspects of doodling, typography, and note taking was instantly appealing to me so I started digging. There is a book and you can snag a chapter for free to check it out. I’ve not yet bought the book, but I did read the free chapter and checked out the blog, SketchnoteArmy, where there are a bunch of lovely examples. After these conferences I’ll be purchasing the book.

This all happened in early April and I decided to commit to trying it out. Not having a conference on at the time, I made some sketchnotes for the 6-7 Ratio and Proportional Relationships Progression document before a meeting I went to in Chicago. It was more an exercise than anything, but I found myself referring to those notes a few times during the meeting and reflection on how what I had sketchnoted jived with what was being said at the meeting. I found the re-engagement with my notes and thinking involved in doing this rather helpful, and thus I went for a new vow to try sketchnoting my NCTM notes. This of course required new pens and a new moleskin. A hardship. Truly. Let’s not talk about the multiple cups on my desk devoted solely to writing/drawing implements.

Things learned:

  • When I sketchnote I spend far less time looking at the presenter.
  • Using black and one other main color works well for me, but having an accent color or two in hand is helpful.
  • Have two black pens–one for normal writing and one with a thicker nib to save time on larger lettering.
  • Wow, am I slow at making block letters.
  • I am also not very good at drawing dogs. Or rabbits. This is going to take some practice.
  • I really like making little stick people to attribute quotes to.
  • Some speakers are easier to sketchnote than others. I’m much more aware of the imagery words evoke due to trying this out.
  • People sitting near you are very curious about why you are holding multiple pens in your off-hand and swapping them out throughout the session.
  • People are also very kind to this total n00b of a sketchnoter on twitter. I am so appreciative of the feedback, tweeps! 🙂

Things I’ll change in the future:

  • I didn’t think to bring any of my grey markers with me which would have made shading and adding depth to my doodles a lot easier. Will fix make sure to pack those for next time.
  • While the moleskin works great, I’m curious if I could find something that would lay flatter in the middle for when I do a two-page spread. The paper is also a bit thin, but they are just notes so I’m note sure how much that will influence my notebook choice in the future.

Next steps for me are playing with this style for taking notes on articles and books to see how it adapts. Having time sounds nice, but that could also lead to spending way too much time on the notes.

For anyone looking to start, I’m thinking watching online talks (perhaps TED?) and sketchnoting them could be a great way to test the form and see if it’s for you. I know that if all I did was take regular notes I’d likely not look at them again because experience tells me so. How often do you re-engage with your notes?

3 thoughts on “in which I sketchnote all the things

  1. Ashli – I am so intrigued! I am a huge fan of multi-colored notes in everything I do, and usually have at least one set of colored pens or pencils with me at all times (like many teachers, I am addicted to writing implements). And I do go back and read them; the colors help me focus on different ideas. I am, however, rather intimidated by the artistry in the notes – all the drawing talent went to my children. But I’m going to give it a go – I’m wondering if it will be helpful in thinking about interactive notebooks for my students…


    • Totally with you on color! My notes from college are all color coded by subject/example problem/questions/etc.

      Hearing you on the artistry. From what I’ve read on sketchnotes there is an emphasis that’s it’s not so much about being artistic as making some choices about font/color/sizing and sticking with them and then learning some simple techniques like arrows and block letters and boxes–all things that just take a bit of practice. I highly recommend you check out the free chapter 4 download if you’re thinking of giving these a shot.

      Now that I’m thinking about it, I didn’t go in with a plan of attack for the notes and it ended up being a more organic thing for me. I found I could draw little people (which bodies of rectangles, triangles, etc) and use them as placeholders for the quotes and then I chose to make all non-speaker people green to differentiate them. Just flipping through the book is very interesting to me as I can see where I try certain elements and then keep using them whereas others fall by the wayside. I hope you give it a go!


  2. Pingback: From my notes | Her Mathness

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