Easy Ways to Get Students Doodling (and learning) in the Classroom!

I’m a huge fan of using doodling to help students learn…and today I’m going to share why doodling is important plus easy ways to help students get their "doodle on" in the classroom. Oh, and I’ve put together a sampler with free doodle resources that you’re going to love! It's a FREE PDF filled with tips, links and EXCLUSIVE DOODLE FREEBIES. I've provided the link at the end of the post!

Here's the thing, when I was a kid, doodling on our papers was not allowed…and now I spend my days coming up with ways to encourage students TO doodle on their papers! That’s because doodling has been shown to help with memory, stress relief and improved focus. 

Doodling is NOT about being an artist, it’s about helping our brains process information. Therefore, doodling can be a powerful instructional tool...and here are just a few ways to use doodles to engage, inspire, motivate, and educate students...

Start any lesson with this free doodle activity. Use it to start a lesson and get students doodling!

DOODLE TO ENGAGE - One way to easily incorporate doodling into the classroom is with a doodle anticipatory set (don’t worry, I’ve provided it for you in the free PDF). I call it Doodle Time. 

As you know, anticipatory sets are brief activities at the start of a lesson that instantly engage students. They can be used to activate students’ prior knowledge, provide continuity from the previous lesson, or expose students to the lesson’s objectives. For this doodle activity, you’ll provide 5 topics either from a previous lesson or as a preview to today’s lesson and then students will create doodles in the doodle frames for each topic. It’s easy, creative, and a perfect way to start a lesson!

DOODLE TO LEARN - Check this out, a study found that doodling can improve people’s ability to remember information by nearly 30%! Yikes! If that’s the case, then it only makes sense to get students doodling WHILE they’re learning. I love to do this with Doodle and Do resources – I’ve created tons of Doodle and Do resources about everything from figurative language to nonfiction text structures

Make teaching nonfiction text structures really fun with this engaging lesson. It includes doodle notes on each nonfiction text structure along with activities to practice learning about each nonfiction text structure!

Each unit includes super fun sets of doodle notes and then targeted activities for students to show their learning. I hear from teachers around the world every day about how the Doodle and Do resources changed their classroom. So, let that be reminder that doodling while taking notes is a good thing! (Check them all out HERE!)

DOODLE TO CELEBRATE - Another way to incorporate doodling into the classroom is to use doodles to celebrate special and important days.

You can have students doodle to celebrate the first day of school. Just hand out blank index cards and kids can create doodle postcards about their summer or check out this doodle-style syllabus. It’s perfect for any class…and I’ve provided it FREE for you. 

This doodle-style syllabus is a perfect way to help students learn about your classroom on the first day of school!

And…speaking of the first day of school, here’s a sneak peek of a doodle infographic filled with school stats that I just created! Kids collect facts on a fact hunt and fill in their doodle infographic before creating an infographic of their own. 

This fun back to school activity will have students up on their feet as they collect facts and then fill in a doodle infographic! So much fun!

Oh, and speaking of infographics – I love to combine them with doodles and fact hunts in resources like these for Veterans Day, St. Patrick’s Day and Valentine’s Day.

When you want students to reflect on their learning, why not try a little doodling? Have students doodle a comic of their learning at the end of any unit. Or, encourage students to create a set of doodle notes for the next year of students. You can even have students reflect on any unit of study with a Doodle Unit Review. Or, they can reflect on any book with this Doodle Book Review

Looking for a creative way for students to review a book that they have read? They'll love this doodle book report! So fun and engaging!

Doodling is not only engaging, it’s also a creative way for students to express and reflect on their learning.

Have students reflect on the novel with this set of Wonder task cards, discussion questions, and doodle tasks!

Also, doodles can be great springboards for conversation…have students discuss what they have sketched after you’ve given them a doodle task. Or have them make it part of a literature discussion with task cards like the “Draw” tasks in this end of the book activity for Wonder, Tuck Everlasting, Freak the Mighty or Walk Two Moons.

Since doodling requires handwriting along with connecting images with concepts – helping students’ motor systems connect with the regions of the brain that deal with memory, it only makes sense to give students a chance to doodle every day. It’s easy to do with this set of Daily Vocabulary tasks. I’ve provided a set for you in the doodle sampler. (FYI - I've created a set of 160 words for grades 3-5 and grades 6-8.)

They’re great for warm-ups especially since they trigger creativity the moment that students enter your classroom.

OK, I know, I’m nuts about doodling, but there’s just something magical about how it takes the most mundane task (like learning how to write with textual evidence) and makes it SO much fun! I promise, the second that you bring doodles into your classroom, engagement will follow!

Give doodles a try with the ideas and resources in this FREE DOODLE SAMPLER! 

Mary Beth

Doodle notes is a trademarked term used with permission. Please visit doodlenotes.org for more information.

Picture Books for Teaching Theme, Figurative Language, Kindness, Creativity, and Writing!

Ready for one of my favorite ways to teach students about writing, reading, creativity, and even kindness? It’s something that elementary teachers have known all along…it’s the picture book!

The picture book is a powerful instructional tool that can work in any classroom…and I thought I’d share some examples of my favorites with you today.

I’ve put the collection of books in a simple (and free) PDF with links that you can download by clicking this LINK. I’ve also paired each book with a ready-made unit that you can easily teach in your classroom too. Feel free to download the PDF at any time.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at some of my favorite picture books for any classroom.

First, I’m sharing a book that is great for the beginning of the year as you’re building a positive classroom community.

Teach students about kindness and build classroom community with this picture book. It's perfect for back to school and middle school!

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts taps into a child’s innate need to have what everyone else has. In this case, the main character longs for the “cool” shoes even though they are too expensive for his grandmother to purchase. After finding a pair that is much too small, the main character makes the ultimate sacrifice for a classmate. It’s a touching story that celebrates kindness and classmates…perfect for any time of year. (Click HERE to check out the book.)

Picture books are also wonderful examples of creativity. Since learning to be creative has shown to be one of the most powerful skills for helping students thrive in life, it’s important to celebrate creativity in the classroom.

These two books do just that…

Use picture books to help students develop creativity. Read this creative book to inspire creativity in the classroom.

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis is fairly simple at first glance. A box shape is turned into everything expect a box – a robot, a hot air balloon, even a rocket ship. It’s a fun example of “thinking outside of the box,” just imagine all the creative lessons you could do as an extension to this story. (Click HERE to check out the book.)

This picture book is great to teach creativity. Middle school students will love how a traditional story is changed with imagination!

The Three Pigs by David Wiesner is another example of creativity. This time students see how a traditional story can be flipped on its head and come to life with a little imagination. This book is the perfect springboard for lessons about thinking in new and creative ways. (Click HERE to check out the book.)

Picture books are wonderful for adding a little humor and whimsy into the classroom. You can keep these two books on your shelf for a rainy day and pull them out when students can use a laugh. And…as a major bonus, humor produces psychological and physiological benefits that help students learn.

Read this funny picture book to your middle school students to add laughter to the classroom!

One of my favorite funny books is The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak. While there are no pictures in the book, there are plenty of silly words and crazy sentences that you, the reader, must read out loud. Students love how “powerless” you become against the words Novak makes you say. You’ll all be laughing together with this book! (Click HERE to check out the book.)

Get students laughing with this funny picture book about a unicorn!

Another funny book filled with voice (and a sweet message) is Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea. Not only is the book funny as the goat laments about the new Unicorn in town, it’s also cleverly written. There’s a lesson in this book along with a few laughs. (Click HERE to check out the book.)

What about using picture books to teach critical ELA skills? That’s a genius idea.

Teach the concept of theme in your middle school classroom with The Empty Pot.

For instance, if you’d like to teach theme, try The EmptyPot by Demi. It’s one of my favorite stories because the reader learns its themes of honesty and integrity along with the main character that shows up to a gardening challenge with an empty pot. Not only is it a great way to teach theme, it’s a lovely way to showcase important character traits too. (Click HERE to check out the book.)

Use picture books as mentor texts before starting a writing unit.

The next time you’re putting together a writing unit, have students begin by reading mentor texts in the form of pictures books. It’s a super engaging and quick way for students to learn about the critical elements of the genre. I always started my memoir writing unit with a review of several picture books like The Baby Sister by Tomie dePaola. (Click HERE to check out the book.)

Send students on a figurative language hunt with this picture book for middle schoolers!

Want to each about figurative language? It’s easy with picture books. Send students on a figurative language hunt in a book like WhiteSnow Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt. The story has a poetic quality as it tells about the first snowfall of the year. (Click HERE to check out the book.)

Alright, I could go on for days…but I better stop right here. I just love how picture books are a powerful way to help students learn about critical ELA topics and build character. Remember, you can check out a list of all my favorites in this FREE download.

Thanks so much for stopping by! I hope some picture books make an appearance in your classroom! 

See you soon!

Mary Beth 

*This post contains affiliate links.

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