Dianne Chen

Sketchnotes for neophytes: inside and outside of the classroom

As our linguistic landscape continues to increase its use of visual elements in communication, we must adapt by evolving our visual literacy skills. One tool to help hone these skills is sketchnoting. Sketchnoting, or visual notetaking, is an effective and flexible tool that can help retain information, improve listening skills and broaden understanding.


Objective: Introduce sketchnotes as a tool to help develop visual literacy skills for learners and educators. Will look at different uses inside and outside of the language learning classroom.

I. What are sketchnotes?

A. Definition

1. Sketchnoting, or visual note-taking, is a tool that combines various visual elements like drawings, icons, hand-lettering and shapes and applies them to note-taking.

B. Background and context

1. Communication is no longer just the written word. Visuals are now integral to most forms of communication/ everyday life.

a. Students must learn to communicate in an increasingly more visual society, must communicate using more than just words

b. Educators need to adapt and evolve their visual literacy skills to better communicate

II. Why use sketchnotes?

A. Advantages

1. filtering/ synthesizing of info

2. visual linked to better memory retention

3. encourages processing of info rather than copying

4. promotes development of organizational skills, study habits (confidence building)

B. Why in the ELT classroom?

1. flexible tool

a. can integrate sketchnotes on small or large scale

b. multi-disciplinary (can use in all aspects of language learning)

i. other visual tools (mind maps, infographics, etc.)

c. can teach the skill, but not necessary

d. use in teaching materials

III. Different ways to integrate sketchnotes into your personal/ professional life (and how it may not be applicable for every situation)

A. for teachers

1. in the classroom/ course planning / personal life

B. for students/ learners

1. class notes (customized info) / investment in their work (pride)/ group projects/ test prep

IV. My personal sketchnote journey (personal and professional uses)

A. Personal: notes from talks, conferences, webinars

B. journaling, recipes

C. Intensive French class - my POV as a learner/ student

D. Professional: “case study” (coursework, exercises with vocab, etc)

1. limitations (time, learner mindset/ age, inflexible curriculum)

V. How other teaching professionals are using sketchnotes mini case studies of other professionals - how they use sketchnotes with a focus on sketchnotes used in different teaching contexts


For this uprooted Californian, English teaching was not her first career path. However, it has been the most enduring. After tech writing in Silicon Valley and working in various libraries and institutions, Dianne has spent the past 15 years evolving within ELT. She currently lives in Southwest France, working with undergraduate and postgraduate university students.