Doodling into the School Year

4 Min Read  •  Visual Art

I learned how to draw from being bored in school. I would doodle
on the margins of my paper.”
– Kevin Nealon, actor and comedian

Raise your hand if you’ve been bored during a meeting or lecture and started doodling? My hand is sky high! Like Kevin Nealon, some of my best creations have come through “absent-minded doodling”. I am a doodler through and through. Unfortunately, I am also a bit of a hypocrite. I have scolded children for “not paying attention and drawing” while I was teaching in my own classroom and then turned around and done the very same thing in a faculty meeting. During meetings, there is about a 99% chance that I am drawing on my paper. In my own experience, I am able to listen better while my hand is moving on the paper. So, why don’t I allow my own students this freedom? Honestly, I don’t have a very good answer. This year, my classroom is taking a turn, and we are embracing the art of doodling.

The Research

Doodling has many negative connotations, especially in the classroom. It is often associated with fidgeting and not paying attention. If you are like me, once you mention fidgeting, my train of thought drives me straight to all the fidget fads on the market today. If fidgeting is such an issue in our classroom – then why shouldn’t we harness it to our advantage?

More and more research is showing the benefits of doodling, also known as visual notetaking or sketchnotes. One of these advantages is retention of information. In fact, Jackie Andrade found in her study that people who doodled recalled 29% more information than listeners who did not doodle. Doodling carries across all content areas and can be applied to upper elementary and beyond. Leah Levy also highlights the use of doodling to promote problem solving. Our standards now push kids at a young age to problem solve. That is why we are proponents of STEAM education! Additionally, doodling allows students to make sense of complicated information in a way that is visually appealing and in an order that they can comprehend. In Sunni Brown’s TED talk, she calls doodling one of intellectual thoughts “greatest allies”. We as educators need all the allies we can get!

How Do We Doodle?

The magnificent thing about doodling is there is no “right” way to doodle. It is a very freeing experience to be allowed to just to go where the pen takes you. At the beginning of the year, offer quick tutorials on doodling. Then, allow the students to explore their creativity and prosper with this new skill.

Doodling Tips

  • Start with very basic lines and shapes
  • Introduce different ways to letter
  • Watch doodling videos on YouTube (Good examples: Sketcho Frenzy, Visual Note-Taking, and My Pencil Made Me Do It)
  • Model doodling while lecturing
  • Offer lots of examples, especially to younger students

A Classroom Full of Doodles

This new school year, I am planning on incorporating doodling throughout the curriculum: reading skills, vocabulary, and math concepts – the application really is endless. This will be a new skill for both the students and me, so I am planning on starting slow and staying consistent.

To begin the year, I will be teaching my students doodling through the instruction of our classroom rules and procedures. We will keep these doodles in our classroom notebooks. I am hoping that this will accomplish two objectives: First, introduce the students to doodling, and offer some basic background skills that will carry them through the year. Second, give the students a visual for the rules and procedures for reference during the year. (We all know they will need them!)  

Another application I plan on incorporating is group doodling, where multiple students doodle one topic. I have always disliked a simple list of classroom rules that hang every year. By using doodling, my students will be able to create a classroom set of rules that they actually want to look at all year long. This will also be an opportunity for me to build community in the classroom.

I am excited to see where this new strategy takes me. After researching, I feel confident that this will be something that both my students and I will benefit from both academically and creatively. I am most excited to see the students blossom. I know I will learn just as much from them as they will from me.


Andrade, J. (2010). What does doodling do? Applied Cognitive Psychology,24(1), 100-106. doi:10.1002/acp.1561

Doodlers, unite! Sunni Brown –

Levy, L. (2014, October 27). Doodling: A Teacher’s Secret Weapon for Unlocking Learning. Retrieved from