Doodling has never been the nemesis of intellectual thought, it has been its greatest ally
Doodling, drawing, colouring in the classroom, until what age is it acceptable? Just as Sunni Brown points to the intellectual nature of doodling, how receptive are we to it in our learning environments?
You can usually spot the doodlers, the colourers, the drawers. They have hard core pencil cases, with an array of upto date pens, of varied labels and thicknesses in an impressive array of colours. They usually also have an equally carefully chosen armament of stationary and post-it-notes. That alone says to me that these learners have come to the classroom prepared to unleash their visual, kinesthetic learning style on the their work, to splash it with colour, to draw meaningful images and push that knowledge into their memory. However, sadly, unless it’s a poster day or vocabulary notebook time they might not unleash their true potential into their learning.
There are a few students I guarantee are waiting for permission to get those pens out in public, but they are slightly afraid. You see as Sunni Brown points out, doodling, drawing and colouring are seen as something that belongs to the child, to primary school, even early teens but particularly at 16 or in the university years study, text becomes colourless. Examinations encourage the grey leaded pencil and the classroom recedes into endless streams of text to be compiled in linear bullet pointed notes in monotone black and blue. This is fine if your brain works that way but what if you need the colour. What if this how your brain works? How can you help learners with this need to work within an increasingly formal environment?
1-Spot the learners in question:
a-The pens, the doodles will be the first indication
b-A loss of interest at long dense text
2-Encourage them to colour and draw: I was a student that needed colour and pictures and spaces to draw. It was not until I was 15 years old that a teacher actively encouraged me to use it. It was such a relief to be free and to be validated by someone in education. Before that I would get in trouble for drawing and colouring. That happened once and it took me until 36 to confidentially walk into a lecture or into a meeting with my A3 pad and the full host of coloured pens.
3-Actively use with learners for their study: How?
a-When making worksheets see if there are ways that you can include areas to colour in, such as arrows or numbers. A learner actively colouring and drawing is kinestheically putting the information into their head. They will rarely forget the information.
b-For Reading: Allow them to colour long reading texts: I usually cover mine in colour, sleep and the next day I see it all in my head categorised into the key themes and words.
c-For listening notetaking: Let them experiment with colourful mindmaps while listening. You will be surprised at what they produce.
d) Vocabulary: ı have a learner who might take unknown words from a reading, draw the theme of the reading (alternative summary) where the minute pictures are all the words she did not know in the text. These are fully contextualised vocab notes.
e) Writing: non-linear, coloured paper planning. Over the years when learners trust that you are ok with their colourful, sketchful learning style they hand in some amazing writing plans. The best was an A2 blue sheet, blasted in bright colour and pulsating with post-it-notes. The learner was in the zone because this was her learning style.
f) Examinations: If the exam board has no restrictions make sure on exams that they are underlining and working in colour. If they start losing concentration on text in long readings or writings train them to have a doodling break to work through the issue.