Tag Archives: sketchnotes

Vicarious PD: Sharing the Wealth of #NCTE19

Last weekend I had the very good fortune to be able to attend NCTE 19 in Baltimore, Maryland and came away with inspiration and ideas to fuel me moving forward this school year. However, I realize there are so many teachers who do not have this opportunity so I try to share my takeaways with as many as I can. Looking for ways to make my learning accessible to others is always a bit tricky but I think vicarious learning can be a powerful PD opportunity. I think it is important to share the wealth of professional knowledge whenever we can.

This week I reflected on the sketchnotes I took during each session. As I revisit them, this is my opportunity to revise as well. I’ll add color and detail as I contemplate and reflect on the ideas the presenters shared. Sometimes I don’t fully color a sketchnote, leaving an open invitation for more reflection and revision.

Another revision I included this time was to insert QR codes into my sketchnotes with links to photos, handouts, or presentation links that I can revisit in the future. It was fun thinking about how to make my notes more interactive and meaningful. Here’s an example:


Then I wanted to create a centralized location for all of the notes and resources I curated so I created a Google Doc with hyperlinks to material for the sessions I attended. Click on the link below the image for access to all of my resources.

Screen Shot 2019-12-01 at 9.43.35 AMhttps://docs.google.com/document/d/1BD1KUTwbTDEY3zUZfCSrNZCVhk2Um8WFfYSoPlZMKmI/edit?usp=sharing

Feel free to share with colleagues and connect with me on Twitter if you would like to chat more. Not being able to travel to a national conference shouldn’t mean you still can’t learn from them. I encourage anyone who has the good fortune to attend nErDcamps, conferences, or workshops to find ways to share those great ideas with colleagues and PLN members. Rising tides lift all boats, let’s create a tsunami of shared PD!

One More Off My TBR Stack

Screen Shot 2019-12-01 at 9.50.19 AMMY JASPER JUNE by Laurel Snyder
I have loved every book Laurel Snyder has penned, and My Jasper June is no exception. A beautiful story of friendship and loss, and the danger of silence and secrets. As the school year ends, Leah is facing a summer alone, one year after the death of her younger brother, Sam. Her friends and neighbors don’t know how to relate to Leah, and her parents have become ‘ghosts’–there, but not really there- so loneliness has become a dark hole in her life. Then she meets Jasper, a mysterious girl with a real joie de vivre. But as their friendship forms, they each begin to share secrets that have haunted them and have to decide how long they can keep these secrets from others. A story of grief and loss, but also of love and hope. She even has a teaching guide for educators who would like to dig into this book more deeply.

NCTE 2018 Ah-has and Oh-Yeahs

When I can’t attend a conference (and that is most of the time) I like to learn vicariously img_0221.jpgthrough other attendees. I follow hashtags on Twitter, I look at posts of Facebook or Instagram, and I read the blogs of those who share out. I think it is only fair to reciprocate whenever I can. Last week I attended NCTE18 in Houston and tried to tweet out quotes and highlights as well as my sketchnotes. (You can see all of my #NCTE18 sketchnotes HERE)

So what did I take away from this conference (other than dozens of books for my TBR stacks?) Here are some of my Ah-ha’s and Oh-yeah’s in sketchnote form…

Raising Student Voice: What is our Role in Equity and Justice in the Classroom?

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Cornelius Minor gave me lots of food for thought:

Oppression can be pervasive in seemingly innocuous practices that our privilege blinds us to. Open our minds and eyes to how others may feel left out or less-than with the systems we consider ‘normal’.

There is a big difference between DIVERSITY (“all the people are at my table“) and INCLUSIVITY (“I change the rules for all”).  Where do my beliefs and actions fall?




Sharpening the Intervention Lens Through Responsive Conversations

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Dr. Mary Howard always provides me with ample Ah-ha moments and she didn’t disappoint this time.

She challenges us to rethink interventions-that sometimes 1 minute could be the most powerful in a child’s day if we are responsive to their needs.

The best teachers do more writing after teaching than before.

Interventions should be JOYFUL, not PAINFUL.

We can’t TEACH kids we don’t know! Look in their eyes and show them how important they are!


Enacting Sustainable Teaching: How Mindfulness, Embodiment, and Literacy Practices Can Help You Stay in the Profession for the Long Haul

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Teaching is one of the few professions that intersects professional and private lives. We need to embrace Sustainable Teaching Practices. The presenters from CSU Writing Project shared some of their research and understanding.

I will definitely be revisiting these ideas in future posts. You can check out their website at https://www.csuwritingproject.net/what-is-sustainable-teaching.html

If we don’t find a sustainable balance between our professional and personal lives, we are destined for burnout and stress-and that doesn’t allow us to be the best teachers, parents, spouses, friends, or family-members we can be.


Keepin’ it Real: Authentic Responses to Reading

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I appreciate that each of these panelists (several from Maine) are in the classroom everyday and using these practices.

Though many were not new ideas they offered ideas for rubrics  and reflection that teachers could use in assessing student responses that are more authentic than tests, quizzes, and response logs.

They reminded us that we can’t just assign these approaches, but that we have to explicitly teach students how to use them, and scaffold them as needed. If kids aren’t ‘getting it’ then it is on us to reteach, provide feedback, and model for them.


Writers’ Notebooks: Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Screen Shot 2018-11-23 at 10.45.25 AMMichelle Haseltine, Linda Urban, and Amy Ludwig VanDerWater are my go-tos when it comes to writers notebooks, so when they were scheduled to present a session I was gobsmacked!

I love the idea that our notebooks are gifts to our future selves. Author Anne Nesbet talked about this in a session I moderated as well. She suggested entries and documents that balance LARGE (world events) with LOCAL (community or personal) to write about.

Also-don’t be intimidated by perfect- be messy and raw. These aren’t published pieces they are an exploration of our heart and soul on paper.  Surprise yourself!

There were more take-aways that I’ll explore in future posts, but these were some sessions that will resonate with me for a long time. Of course, the sessions I presented with others shaped my teaching in profound ways as I prepared, reflected, and practiced more mindfully what I planned to ‘preach’. You can see those presentations here:


Anytime we plan to teach others, we enhance our own practice and deepen our own understandings. If you have never thought about being a presenter, I would strongly encourage you to try it. You will definitely come away a stronger teacher and more reflective practitioner. Call for NCTE 2019 proposals are open now https://convention.ncte.org/2019-convention/call-for-proposals/

One More Off My TBR Stack!


SHOUTING AT THE RAIN by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
I have been waiting so long to get my hands on this book and all I can say is that it’s worth the wait!
Lynda Mullaly Hunt actually threw out her first manuscript and started all over with a new setting-Cape Cod and the story poured right out of her heart and onto the page.
We meet Delsie living on the Cape with her Grammy, abandoned by her mother and never knowing her father. Until this summer she has never given the situation much thought, but as some friends rehearse for Annie at the summer playhouse, she realizes she, too, is an orphan. She feels an even keener sense of loss when her best friend, Brandy, chooses a self-centered summer visitor, over their longstanding friendship. Along comes a new kid, Ronan, who is sharing some of the same struggles as Delsie, but handles his frustration in more destructive ways. Together they confront challenges we hope our children never have to weather, and make some discoveries about themselves and what family really means. So glad I finished this on Thanksgiving-a perfect way to celebrate the day!

Literacy for All? I Can Visualize That!

This past week I attended the Literacy for All Conference in Providence, Rhode Island with the literacy specialists from my district. It was wonderful to go with a group of passionate peeps so we could discuss we we heard and learned. Again I used sketchnoting as a way to capture the big ideas from presentations and encourage me to revisit my thinking, as I revised with colors and doodles.


Sketchnotes from Donalyn Miller’s Keynote Address

Sketchnotes from Katie Cunningham and Jodi Falk’s Joyful PD Session

While I value my own personal sketchnotes and enjoy sharing them with others, something even more important came from this approach. One of the other literacy specialists began to experiment with this practice and shared her notes with me. Erika told me as she was sitting in a session, a woman was observing her doodling and asked, “Do you know Paula Bourque?” Erika chuckled and let her know that we work together.

When she returned to her school, Erika shared her notes with her para-professional colleagues and we had a discussion about how this approach could benefit the Title I students they serve. We talked about how it can be intimidating to see more polished and practiced sketchnotes, but Erika assured them that her initial attempts were quite simple- and as we looked at them, we could see the quick progress that can be made with intentional practice.

Erika’s sketchnote samples over a three day period.

Erika and I shared how this approach can actually change the way you think about information you are processing. She talked about how she was worried at first that she couldn’t sketch and listen, but found that with a little practice, those concerns were ameliorated. Erika took her notes to a far more artistic level than I use, and that is part of the joy that is sketchnoting–it is individualized, creative, and  generative.

So whether you will be attending a conference, participating in PD, reading a text, or listening to a podcast- grab a pen and paper and start doodling. See where it takes you. That’s a form of Literacy for All that I will continue to advocate for.

One More Off My TBR Stack!

Screen Shot 2018-11-04 at 10.51.52 AMAN UNINTERRUPTED VIEW OF THE SKY        by Melanie Crowder

How is there so much I’ve never heard about in our world’s history? I am fascinated by the people and places that I know so little about-especially the indigenous people who are often unfairly marginalized. Melanie Crowder’s novel is set in Bolivia in 1999. Francisco lives with his sister, Pilar and his parents. He’s in his final year of school and has little ambition. Then his father is arrested on false charges and sent to prison, his mother realizes she cannot support the family alone, so abandons them. Francisco and Pilar have no where to go other than to live at the prison with their father. They realize prisoners have to pay for their cells and their food. They cannot afford a lawyer to plead their father’s case. All seems lost. Somehow Francisco must find a way to help his family, and another desperate girl trying to survive in the men’s prison. He begins to appreciate the gifts he had in life-and still has. I love this story and the beautiful prose and poetry that bring it to life. A Maine Student Book Award (MSBA) 2018-19 nominee for older readers.


Sketchnote Coaching

I’m back to blogging after a bit of a hiatus. I finished my second book for Stenhouse and turned over the manuscript recently, so my writing time was pretty focused. I’ll write more about that process, but today I wanted to share a new way I’ve been using sketchnoting in classrooms.

During this year of coaching, as teachers have asked me to observe lessons, I’ve been sketchnoting the activity, interactions, and movement of the class and teacher with visual notes. These have become a powerful tool for post observation conferences.


As I take notes, I try very hard to be non-evaluative and encourage teachers to self-reflect and self-evaluate their lessons. Sketchnoting has made that so much easier for me. I capture what I see in words and images that are not filtered through my descriptive vocabulary.  This has opened up greater conversations with teachers, and they love keeping a copy of the sketchnote for their portfolios.

This last week I tried something new. I often ask the teachers what they are focusing in their lessons, what their learning targets or success criteria may be, or even what they want me to notice-this guides my observation and allows me to get targeted feedback. However, this time I created a color key for the literacy areas Caroline, a 2nd grade teacher, was trying to incorporate into her science lesson. I sketchnoted her lesson and then afterwards asked her to reflect on her lesson with those areas in mind. Where did she feel like she was able to incorporate them? Where did the students engage with them? She then coded the sketchnote with those colors as we discussed the lesson.


Before color coding


After color coding

Caroline told me this was the best observation she ever had. She is already an incredibly reflective teacher, and this let her tangibly reflect and document her self-assessment.  I think this could be a powerful tool for teachers to use when observing student group or independent work as well.

If you haven’t tried sketchnoting yet, I’d encourage you to check out some resources over the summer. I’ll be presenting with Tanny McGregor and Buffy Hamilton at ILA in Austin on sketchnoting. I’ll share more information on this in future blogs as well.  You can check out my Padlet of resources to get started.

Made with Padlet

One More Off My TBR Stack!

Screen Shot 2018-06-02 at 8.49.43 AMGhost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Jerome is shot and killed by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real weapon. The story is told from his perspective as a ghost as he watches his family’s agonizing struggle to seek justice for his death. The only human who can see Jerome is the police officer’s daughter Sarah, who is also struggling as her family’s life has been upended. Sarah wants to right a wrong done by her father and help Jerome, but she isn’t sure how. Jerome also meets another ghost-Emmett Till- who was lynched in 1955 and is the presumed leader of the ghost boys-murdered young black men. What does justice look like? How do people (or ghosts) heal from these tragedies. How do we face unconscious bias in our world? Jewell Parker Rhodes’ book may help start that conversation for many readers as she shows us not everything is as black and white as we see it.

Sketchy Professional PD

Summer is a time that many teachers choose their own professional development. Many of us take courses, attend conferences and workshops, or read professional books to enhance our teaching. I’ll be doing those things as well, but I’ll be doing it a little different this summer.

For the past couple of years I’ve kept a sketchnote journal for attending conferences and workshops.  It has really shaped the way I think about the information being presented as well as my ability to revisit the information and reflect more deeply with what resonated.

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This summer I want to apply that way of thinking and responding to my professional reading and my podcast listening as well.  As I am reading or listening, I tune in to what information inspires, challenges, or connects with my current thinking.  I listen for “ah-ha’s” and visualize how that might look with my own teaching or in my life.  Sometimes I sketchnote right then, other times I let things percolate and sketch what ‘sticks’.

I give it a little time and then as I revisit my sketchnotes I add small details and doodles as I meditate on the message-helping to internalize the ideas and epiphanies from the pages. I think I am going to work in black and white this summer, and then add color later to things that I plan to (or have) incorporate into my teaching and coaching. I want these to be interactive and inspirational.  There are too many books I’ve read where I have thought, “That’s a great idea!” and then never applied it to my teaching.  I’m hopeful that this approach will change that.

So here’s to another summer of personalized PD.  May it be enlightening, inspiring, and sketchy!

What’s On My Book Radar?

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Initially this book reminded me of some favorites (Maze Runner, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scar Island) but it quickly developed into a thoughtful and poignant tale that embraced and exposed the joys and fears of childhood. “Nine on an island, orphans all, Any more, the sky might fall.” An idyllic island where once a year a boat arrives with a young orphan (a care) and the oldest orphan (elder) must depart the same day. This ‘changing’ brings stability to the island but uncertainty for those coming and going. On the day Jinny’s best friend, Deen, must depart she becomes the elder and must care for the new child, Ess. With new responsibilities and the inevitability of her limited time on the island, Jinny must come of age with no mentor. She discovers choices have consequences that affect others and that growing up reveals the world doesn’t revolve around you. This book is extraordinary-I couldn’t recommend it more. It will leave you thinking and talking about this book with kids and adults for a long time.

3 #NCTE16 Takeaways To Impact Teaching and Learning

If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to attend a large national conference, you know that you can often come away feeling exhilarated, but overwhelmed.  So many ideas, so little time to reflect and then implement them all.  I have found 2 approaches to be helpful in supporting my learning and assisting me in coming away with actionable ideas and I believe they could help you, too:

  • Sketchnoting
  • Synthesizing


I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and it has really shaped the way I think about new information coming in.  As presenters share their ideas, my brain is thinking about what does that mean for ME and MY STUDENTS/STAFF?  What are the big ideas I want to be able to remember and take back?  What words resonate with me?  What resources do I want to seek out? What quotes will inspire me to act? If I don’t think it is something I would intentionally use, I don’t jot it down. If it doesn’t inspire me to grow, it doesn’t go in my notebook,  I just listen and absorb it.


These are a few of my #NCTE16 Sketchnotes. You can see them all by CLICKING HERE.


During the conference, I start thinking about how the sessions relate to one another. How could this presentation, support that presentation? What do many of these have in common? What is a theme I could extract from these? That helps me to categorize sessions by topics such as: writing strategies, teaching inspiration, book/author love, power of reading, etc. I often find myself choosing sessions that fit into themes I want to explore more deeply rather than sampling a huge variety of topics.

On the trip home, I continue synthesizing these ideas. Sitting with my sketchnote book, I begin to pull my takeaways-the big ideas I want to hold onto. Here are 3 of the biggest for me.  I’d love to hear what yours are!

#1 Reading/Writing Reciprocity

This isn’t new to most of us, but a renewed emphasis on the correlations is helping me to think about how to scaffold my students more effectively.  When we asked our students about what they have read (comprehension) we can invite them to ask, “What did the writer do to make you think that?” (composition). Everything we do as readers is because of something the writer did. Helping them to understand that purposeful connection as seamless can help them reflect on their own process for composing and comprehending.

We teach inverses in mathematics that help our students develop numeracy. If we think about teaching inverses with literacy we can help them to become more literate. Rather than teaching writing workshop and reading workshop separately, how can we make them more seamless? How can we help those worlds communicate with each other more effectively rather than dividing them up?

  • How can YOU help students use these literacy inverses to help them grow as readers and writers?

#2 Students as Learning Partners

The key to encouraging students to become more self-directed in their own learning is to cultivate engagement rather than compliance.  Too often our classrooms are structured to ensure compliance to our rules, our expectations, our instructions. If we shift our focus toward increasing engagement, we will have students invested in their learning for themselves, and not just to please us.

First, we need to understand and cultivate the 3 Dimensions of Engagement

  1. Behavioral (the quality of students’ participation in the classroom and school community)
  2. Emotional (the quality of students’ sense of belonging and degree to which they care about learning)
  3. Cognitive (the quality of students interest, ownership, and strategies for learning)

I’ll examine these dimensions in a future blog, but we can begin by creating relationships with students that don’t just foster a more positive classroom climate, but that establish a dynamic in which students feel invested and included in the design of the classroom. These relationships are essential for understanding the complex identities of our students in order to partner with them in their learning.  Building strong relationships says, “I see you.   I hear you.   I am here for you.”

We can then develop “partnerships” with students by:

  • Using students’ writing as mentor texts
  • Asking students to teach/lead “expert” groups if they have a desire and strength in a particular area.
  • Inviting students to create the anchor charts in which to teach/learn
  • Asking students to weigh in on planning lessons and assessments
  • Encouraging students to give the book talks/recommendations to classmates
  • Helping students create FLIPPED lessons that can be taught to others

There are dozens more ways, but you get the idea.  We don’t need to be the gatekeepers of learning in our classrooms when we can energize and encourage students to be our allies in this journey.

  • How can YOU partner more with students to create engaged learners in your own classrooms?

#3 Books Save Lives

Paula Bourque Sketchnotes #NCTE16

Literally. I can’t tell you how many stories I have heard from authors and speakers who tell of the influence of a book on their lives-even to the point of saving it. But more often than preventing someone from taking their life, books save lives in ways we may not see or be aware of for years. They can save someone from a life of:


  • isolation
  • prejudice
  • ignorance
  • loneliness
  • fear & bigotry
  • anger and hatred

We need to have books that act as mirrors (in which we can see ourselves) and windows (in which we can see into the lives of others) now more than ever.  The fear of “otherness” has done great harm to people throughout history, and those who fail to learn from history are, as they say, doomed to repeat it. We need our students to see that ALL children have hopes and fears, dreams and aspirations, friends and family just like they do. We need to get those books into the hands our children and into our read alouds and lit groups. Not because they are ‘politically correct’ but because I really do believe that they save lives from being intolerant, fearful, and angry from a lack of understanding. We can prevent those beautiful children in our classroom from growing up with prejudices and biases that close off a wonderful world to them and harm the world for the rest of us.

  • How can YOU find and use books that could save a life?

What’s On My Book Radar?

GHOST by Jason Reynolds

Castle Crenshaw (a.k.a. “Ghost”) can run…fast.  He needed to the night he and his momma escaped from his daddy who tried to kill them.  But now he finds himself running for an elite track team and trying to figure out how or if he belongs.  He finds that he can’t screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-4-16-15-pmrun from his anger and pain, but with the help of his coach and his new team mates, Ghost is learning to trust again and maybe become a great runner. Jason Reynolds writes with such passion and raw voice, you are immediately drawn into this world and walk in the shoes of another.

Winner of the 2017 NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction and a National Book Award Finalist..for GOOD reason-this book captures the truth and trials of many of our youth today who are marginalized and traumatized. A story that NEEDS to be told and it is told so brilliantly by Reynolds. As Jason Reynolds said at the NCTE keynote, “Magic is in the mundane. One of the greatest forms of advocacy is in the mundane.” The everyday stories of people trying to live their lives in the face of adversity may seem mundane, and that is why they are so powerful. Check out GHOST, you will be so glad you did.


A Poem for Peter  by Andrea Davis Pinkney (illus by Lou Fancher & Steve Johnson)

For Picture Book Month, I chose this amazing book. The story of The Snowy Day began over 100 years ago with the birth of Ezra Jack Keats.  This beautiful biography told in verse by Pinkney shows us the incredible story of the man who brought Peter to life and how he never gave up until his dream was realized. I always loved Ezra Jack Keats’ work, and now I have grown to love the man as well.  This book is a MUST for every classroom or home for children who are fans of Peter and his family/friends. Inspiring and illuminating!!

It’s Great to Be Sketchy!

#SOL16 Day 26Screen Shot 2016-03-01 at 5.11.16 PM

Let’s face it, we are living in a digital world.  I am almost never far from some device that keeps me connected, organized, engaged.  For years I would attend conferences, workshops, or classes with my laptop or iPad helping me to take copious notes.  While I was able to capture a lot of what was said or presented, I wasn’t truly processing it in the moment, I was simply scribing.  I would leave with my fingers aching, my mind racing, and often an overload of information.  Then I would need to find time to read back through my notes and pull out the big ideas I’d like to incorporate into my teaching.

Then I started noticing the emergence of sketchnotes popping up on Twitter. In an instant I could see what the “big ideas” were for these educators. I was intrigued.  I used my digital world resources to explore these medium of note taking. There were dozens of websites and hundreds of examples.  I ordered Mike Rohde’s The Sketchnote Handbook and I was hooked!

I haven’t totally given up my devices, but I have started to use them to help me think more visually about ideas rather than verbally!  I snap photos with my phone of presenter slides rather than try to copy them down. I try to sketch out relationships or salient points that I think will be relevant for ME rather than everything that is being shared. The act of drawing/sketching  is like a meditation on an idea.

I also use my devices to share out my thinking.  I will tweet an important idea (sometimes with an image of my sketchnote page) and then I have my big ideas recorded on my Twitter feed-often with a comment from another teacher. I will follow a #hashtag after the session to see what big ideas surfaced for others.  I haven’t given up ONE format for ANOTHER completely.  I am learning to merge the tools that I think can help me best to integrate new thinking and learning into my schema.

I know I’ll revisit this topic in future blogs as consider how this might work for our students as well.  Some of the biggest slices of my life involve reflection on my practice. This has certainly been some new learning for me. I’m finding it fun and fascinating to be a little “sketchy”!