Waiting at the Airport and Brainstorming on Lesson Planning

A lot of my time is spent at airports as I travel Colombia giving training sessions at schools, universities, and institutes. I truly love my job, yes, even the traveling part. I get some of my best ideas while traveling (and waiting).
So, here I am just leaving Armenia, Colombia and once again faced with waiting at an airport and psyched because it allows me time to create new ideas of my own. After each session I walk away with so many creative and innovative teaching ideas and strategies from the amazing teachers I meet that I usually end up in a brainstorming airport session. This time my thoughts take me to lesson planning.
I am big on doodling and use this technique all the time to prepare presentations, and even classes. Albeit I am a huge tech geek, I still find that paper is the best way to map out my ideas and make sense of all the crazy ideas that pop into my head.

What is doodling?
Well, doodling is one way to say it, but you could think of it like mind mapping or sktechnoting as well. All of these are great ways to put on paper your thoughts in a way that allows you to associate freely, create links, and visualize your thoughts in an easy way. Now, I want to focus specifically on sktechnoting because I think it could be a great way to plan your lessons, especially for those of us that don’t think linearly and can’t fit all of our ideas in a rigid lesson plan design.

Ok, quick pause, just had to share the view from my window on my way back to Medellin before I kept going.

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What do you need to doodle?
First things first, you have to be prepared to sketchnote anywhere you go, so if you’re going to get on board with this technique then you should start carrying around a notebook and a pen or pencil. Now, what you use will depend on what your intention is.

What to write on?
Loose paper> if you’re just taking a quick note to get your ideas straight and organize them, well this is the way to go. Any loose paper, napkin or recycled paper will do.
Notepad> a small notepad will do if you have quick, random thoughts you want to keep track of.
Notebook> if you are invested in keeping a log of your sketchnotes and want to revisit them whenever you want and maybe even add or modify them, then you’ll definitely need a notebook. I definitely recommend this if you are going to be lesson planning.

What to sketchnote with?
You can sketch with anything you like but you should consider how permanent you want your ideas to be. With pencil you can be less restrictive and easily erase mistakes, although you will have to additionally carry around a sharpener or leads. With pens or markers, on the other hand, it can be a bit more challenging because you really need to commit to each stroke.

How to sketchnote?
There really are no set rules to sketchnoting. It’s all about unleashing your creativity, adding “picto-notes” (this is a made up word I saw which means making a drawing of something you can’t quite explain in words), fun lettering, colors, frames, arrows and anything else that will let you visualize your ideas.
Finally, remember you don’t need to be an artist to doodle or sketchnote. Anyone can do it, it’s not about drawing a masterpiece, it’s about putting your ideas on paper.

Why sketchnoting can be useful for lesson planning?
When I plan, I usually begin from the end and work my way back. I know what I want my student to be able to do at the end of the session, and then I start working my way back slowly. I make sure that every single activity in the session has a clear purpose and helps me to reach my target. By sketchnoting, I can easily go back and forth and make sure there is a linguistic, lexical and communicative connection to everything I’m including in the lesson. I usually add colors for the different skills, grammar or vocabulary I’m including so I can visually make sure I’m recycling it enough for students to get it. I usually try to work my way through at least 3 of the 4 skills to teach one grammar topic and a group of vocabulary words.
By keeping a notebook, you can focus on long-term planning as well, because it’s not only important to make sure that there’s a thread connecting all of the activities in one class. It’s just as important to plan your course goals and plan backwards to help you map out when and where you should include each topic, how long you have to focus on each one and what you should recycle throughout the course because students didn’t quite get it in a previous class. So, sketchnoting not only lets you plan the class but also write feedback or extra notes on how it went and what to remember for the next session.

If you need help to get started you can try this kind of format which gives you framework to start off with, or you can simply get a blank piece of paper and get started. Either way, you should definitely give it a try.

More ideas for planning with sketchnoting from an interesting blog I found.

Well, guys I’ve reached my final destination so hope you enjoyed this traveling post and tune in next time where I’m going to explore what makes a good target or goal for your class.

Here are some of my examples:
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