Doodling 101

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August 8, 2018

Doodling 101

or 5 Reasons Doodling Should be Taught in School

In the last 10 years, doodling has become the coolest tool for idea generation and information processing in the new economy. Companies even hire professional visual note takers to document board meetings in real time – its called Graphic Recording. But the stigma of doodling as evidence of distraction still exists. I’ve heard plenty of recent stories about teachers who don’t like students to doodle in class because they think the students aren’t paying attention. But more and more studies show that is simply not true. Here are the five reasons doodling should be taught in the classroom:

1. Doodling helps you focus – scientific studies show doodling makes it easier to pay attention when you feel like your mind is wandering. Professor Jackie Andrade conducted a study that showed that participants who were instructed to doodle retained 29% more information than those who were instructed not to doodle.  

2. Doodling encourages creative thinking – when you draw its easier to make novel connections between two different ideas. By engaging your verbal processing center and your creative brain in tandem you have an opportunity to explore ideas in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise.

Some  more of Mariah’s favorite doodles

3. Doodling helps you retain more information – by engaging multiple modes of learning, you are more likely to be able to process, retain and recall information. When you doodle while you listen you are engaging all three modes of learning – auditory (listening), visual (image processing) and kinesthetic (mark making).

4. Doodling helps relieve tension – because doodling is a kinesthetic process, doodling helps people who struggle to sit still stay calm and focused. When you find it hard to sit still and listen, being able to engage your hands in doing something other than tapping your pen on the table can make the difference between being able to listen to what is being said and getting in trouble for being disruptive.

5. Doodling reveals what you know and what you don’t know – when you doodle you have an opportunity to examine a concept from a new perspective. Using images to communicate concepts frees you from having to find the correct words. In turn, the exercise of doodling those concepts can help you find the right words to describe the concept. That new perspective also gives you the opportunity to consider what you don’t understand about the concept yet.

Giving students the tools they need to be able to doodle productively may sound like just another thing to include in the classroom schedule. But each subject already benefits from creative note taking; observations and record keeping in science, sentence diagramming in ELA, number grouping in math, cartooning in history (ok, I made that last one up, but it sounds like a good idea).

Frustrated Kate Doodle

The biggest obstacle for most students will be getting past the idea that they “can’t draw”. My answer… “can you hold that pencil?” We all learn to draw before we learn to write. Young children don’t worry at all about whether what they draw is “good.” That happens gradually, as they begin to compare themselves to the friends and grown ups around them. It is important to emphasize that it’s not the quality of the drawing the matters, it’s the act of drawing that matters. Letters, lines, circles boxes and arrows are all easy places to start – the rest is in there, waiting to be set free.

Mariah’s 4th Grade Doodle Notebook from Ms. Medina’s class


What Does Doodling Do?
The Power of Visual Note Taking
The Power of the Doodle: Improve Your Focus and Memory
5 Ways Doodling Improves Learning and Creativity

Other Resources:

Picturing to Learn
Sunni Brown: Doodlers Unite! TED talk
All The Presidents Doodles
In Defense of the Visual Alphabet
Visual Thinking