Kristin Daley Conti, Tantasqua Regional Junior High School, Tasqua/union 61, Massachusetts.
Our days at school are filled with virtual meetings, virtual learning, virtual content, tech-tools, and devices these days. Even more, since the pandemic has seemingly changed everything in education. My school is in a hybrid/hyflex model with half of the students attending school in-person one week, home the next, and they alternate being online. We also have some students that are fully remote, and a handful of students in-school full-time. It’s a lot. It’s exhausting. And sometimes it’s boring. Everyday I try to think of ways to safely incorporate hands-on activities, movement, and collaborative learning. It is a difficult task with so many things to think and worry about.
Sketchnotes turned VNPS
I recently received my first set of Wipebook Flipcharts. I immediately thought of sketchnoting! This is an activity I often do with classes, but this year, it has been difficult. We are not sharing things like coloured pencils and markers and most of my 7th graders do not have their own personal supplies. The other bizarre thing that has unexpectedly happened this year is the silence. When students work independently, they don’t talk. The mask may be a barrier for the virus, but it is also a barrier to that happy, chatty, hustle and bustle you usually see and hear in a middle school classroom. Most years, as students are working on their personal sketchnotes...they talk, share ideas, ask to borrow certain color markers from each other, etc. This year, this is not happening, so we need to adapt. If you are unfamiliar with sketchnoting, it is a form of visual note-taking. According to verbaltovisual.com, “the whole idea behind adding sketches to your notes is that it taps into parts of your brain that would lie dormant if you only use words to explore ideas. It’s the combination of the two that’s most powerful – using both words and visuals while taking notes”.
With the use of Wipebook Flipcharts, students were able to collaborate. This first time around, I only used the Wipebook Flipchart with students that were in-person, in my room. After an activity on plate boundaries, I gave the students a list of vocabulary. They were responsible for adding one word, and one picture to their Flipchart page. Each block, we built off of the work already completed; added more vocab, more pictures, and made more connections. Safety measures were in place. Students used hand-sanitizer before and after, and markers were wiped off with disinfectant wipes in-between classes. Students were being super-careful about not wrecking anyone else’s work, so there was actually not a lot of touching of the Wipebook page. I was right, as soon as we started sketchnoting on these large posters, students were standing up to work and that sweet sound of middle-school emerged!
Call to Action to create more VNPS
So next week, the other cohort will be back in school and they can have a chance to add to our class sketchnotes (there is still plenty of space). These “posters” can now be hung around my room as we finish up this unit (VNPS). How inspiring!! The best part is that we can use the Wipebook App to take pictures to preserve our work, but when we are finished, we can wipe them clean, and start over, which makes my environmental science heart very happy. This activity is something I know my students will want to do over and over again!!
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