Dipping Your Toe Into Sketchnoting

Sketchnoting has given several of my students a new way to express themselves, both as they reflect on lesson materials and create presentations of their learning. This post is an outline of how I get my class started with sketchnoting.

Because we are not in a 1:1 iPad environment in my classroom, students begin their doodles with paper and pencil, and I eventually do digital tutorials for those that are interested in using this method to share their work and thinking. The app we use is Sketches School (the same as in the Everyone Can Create Drawing iBook) and some students have dabbled with Procreate as well. 

There are 5 basic tenets of sketchnoting that I teach below. We move through each individually as students explore how they might use them to effectively communicate thinking.


The five foundations of sketchnoting, visualized.


There are orders of magnitude in your text. The size and text style acts to communicate of the level of importance of the written words.


Orders of magnitude in sketchnoting texts. Title text is larger and more prominent and personal notes are smaller and neutral
Boxes and Containers

These denote significance or categorization and act as a styling tool for your broader sketch note.


Boxes and containers can highlight or call out important ideas or thinking
Lines and arrows

These elements work to separate and divide or join and converge your content, respectively. 

Lines and arrows can be used to divide or connect sketchnote content

You DO NOT have to know “how to draw” to sketch note. Most doodles contain 5 basic components… a dot, a line, a triangle, a square, and/or a circle. As Mike Rohde, the author of The Sketchnote Handbook says about the quality of drawings, it’s about “ideas, not art!”  

Almost any doodle can be made with 5 basic shapes: circle, triangle, square, a line, and a dot

There are 5 general layout styles in which your sketchnote can flow.  

Sketchnotes can be laid out in 5 different ways: horizontally, vertically, radially, as a narrative flow, or freeflow.
After teaching the sketchnote elements, I’ll generally have students hone their skills and practice with a challenge like this table (given to them empty, of course).

Sketchnote Foundations Table
Then, we’ll put it all together with some challenges or assignments like any of these below: 
drawing exercise - have students brainstorm a few inanimate objects and a few human action concepts and attempt to draw them
Have students divide their page up into quadrants and choose 4 emotions. Draw each emotion in as many ways as you can.
Student work on paper - "Peace Is..." sketchnote - depicts what brings this student peace


  • Sketchnote a typical day in your life
  • Draw how you make toast (or insert other task) - great for expository writing
  • Term / year / course reflection
  • Sketchnote a scientific or biological process
  • Sketchnote a historical timeline
  • Sketchnote a character map
  • Sketchnote the plot of the novel you’re reading

Do you have some other ideas on where you’d use sketchnoting in your classroom? Comment with your ideas below!

All Comments

Posted on July 25, 2023

Thanks for sharing! This is an incredible resource for someone to get started with Sketchnoting.

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