Monday, October 10, 2011

What Happens to the Doodlers?

Recently Richard Byrne shared the fantastic short TED video by Sunni Brown called "Doodlers Unite."  (Shown below).  Being a lifelong doodler myself, and also one that has realized how much my students do it, I was eager to share the video with the rest of my school and see how they reacted.  So imagine my delight, when my principal emailed me the following story today:

The framed pencil sketch of "Mr. Rykal's class" on my wall is from my first classic doodler. When he was in 4th grade, I went to him, ripped a doodle page from his notebook, and then stapled it to my bulletin board. I told him if I couldn't stop him from doodling, I was going to be the first person to own his original work. The result was the portrait.

Later, when he graduated from HS, he sent me a note, thanking me for recognizing that he had to doodle.

He is now an artist who illustrates children's books. I purchased one for our library, and a couple years ago emailed him a picture of the portrait on my wall.

As a new teacher, I was always the one that would try to "catch" students not paying attention and doodling was definitely one of my many "clues" as to who was aptly listening and who wasn't.  I assumed that if they were busy with their hands there was no way my fascinating lecture could be captivating them as well.  Often, my doodlers would be embarrassed by being called out in front of the class like that and their  doodling would disappear.  I wanted control so badly of my room that I confused it with controlling my students' every move as well.

It wasn't until two years ago, when I realized that some people focus much better when they doodle and perhaps I had just given doodling a bad name.  What was an annoying habit that I needed to get rid of, was something I myself do when I sit in meetings.  Oops.  Big learning moment when I realized that.   And now I wonder how many students grow into be artists when we let them doodle?  How many students discover their love of using tools to create when they doodle?  How many students focus more aptly because their hands are busy?  I now encourage doodling in my classroom as we work and have had students share their doodles as well.

So there we have it - Doodling isn't wasteful, it is an art-form, something that helps students focus.  Rejoice and celebrate the doodling.


@educatoral said...

I hare to admit that I too started by asking doodlers to stop doodling and "pay attention" the traditional way that made ME feel good. As I learned more about doodling, mostly from observing my doodling students, I ended up trying it myself. See, I was never a doodler and students kep telling me that it helped them focus. I believed them and let them doodle away. Then when i tried it I found that I really liked it and now I doodle at meetings and conferences as well! When I'm not tweeting that is. :)

Eric Biederbeck said...

Thanks for this great read on doodling! This year, I painted my previously black science tables with Dry Erase Paint. I also have a large crate of Dry Erase markers available in the room (no red though- it stains). I think it might have been my best idea ever! My kids use the tables to doodle, draw pictures of each other, write notes to kids in other classes, do math problems (okay sometimes I take the pens and do math problems too!, write notes about what they are reading or discussing, etc. I have to say that so far it appears the ability to doodle,etc has helped with retention in both my observations ad in exit cards that I have of the kids understandings. I've also put up a couple of pieces of panel board on the walls and encourage the kids to write on them too. They love it so much that they want me to plaster the hallway with panel board. I'm thinking I might have to go back to Home Depot!

Nikkie Zanevsky (@pkto3progress) said...

Thanks for sharing! What a great topic. I think it's interesting that there's a social stigma connected to doodling but at the same time, infographics and other simple visuals that distill complex information get a lot of traction and a positive reaction. They’re not THAT different, after all… I think great visuals (including paintings, sculptures, infographics, and others) would not be possible it not for the creative possibilities afforded by doodling. One of my favorite things: doodling without consciously attending to it (while engaged in some other activity) and then reviewing the doodles later.

Mrs Ripp aka @pernilleripp said...

I love these comments and I completely wish I could paint my desks as well. What a wonderful idea.


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