I’m not quite sure I’ve always doodled, but I’ve been at it for quite a while now. The first evidence I have found of my doodling are from notebooks my senior year in high school. All through college and beyond my notebook margins are full of doodles. The journals I keep while attending conferences are littered with drawings and doodles among the key points and quotes. Prior to that, I know I liked to draw but that was left to art class or a separate piece of paper. My love of drawing did get me through biology because my lab reports always were well illustrated. I do remember my fair share of daydreaming early in my school career and I can’t help but wonder if there is a direct correlation between my grades and my habit of doodling? Regardless, over the years my GPA improved steadily along with my doodling.

Just last weekend I was at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Saturday Reunion conference at Columbia. I arrived with a freshly prepped notebook- a composition book covered in gesso and swirled in two colors with watercolors. I left with very few notes on the inside on my notebook, but both sides of the cover had become one big doodled design. On several occasions this past week, I found myself in conversations with other participants who attended the event and same keynotes. I surprised myself by how much I had recalled from the talks I had been listening to while doodling and how my colleagues agreed with key points I enthusiastically shared. Maybe there is something to all the buzz and research about doodling and how it improves memory 29% as well as helps us concentrate. NPR and Time have published articles which indicate improved recall and memory when the brain in actively engaged in activities such as doodling. If you haven’t had a chance, do watch the Doodling in Math videos which take doodling to a whole new level! I’m particularly fond of the Spirals, Fibonacci and Being a Plant series.

In just the past few months I’ve witnessed more than once a teacher tell a student to “Stop doodling and pay attention!” What I also noticed, which the teacher did not, was how the same students gazed off into space and totally lost focus and no longer participated in the discussion after that point. Scary. How often I wondered, did I do things in my classroom that had the total opposite reaction of what I was striving to achieve?

A lot of my thinking about the best way to teach students began at a Math Their Way instructor training conference back in the early nineties when we started to explore learning styles and the new field of brain research. We were privileged to have among our speakers Pat Wolfe and Dr. Anthony Gregorc. Pat Wolfe was humorous and informative as she translated the latest brain research into classroom practice and should be a must in every teacher’s education. I know it transformed my teaching. The Gregorc Style Delineator was fun and a real eye opener and not surprisingly one of my colleagues with very similar teaching style to mine, both ended up with results and a graph almost identical. My staff at school was for the most part quite the opposite or somewhere in the middle.

Once you understand a little about how the brain works and it impacts learning, the change that can transform and the impact in the classroom is amazing. If you can’t see Pat in person, read her book, Brain Matters: Translating the Research to Classroom Practice or The Brain Compatible Classroom: A Teachers Guide.

Now I sit here thinking about how to get more educators to invest in the latest brain research and its practical applications in their day-to-day teaching. Maybe the answer to doing well on the test is as simple as learning how to teach so our students can learn. Could it possibly start with a doodle?

If you want to improve your doodling and hopefully your memory, google: Zentangles.


About Deb Barends

I am a recently retired, reinvented, primary teacher doing things I have always loved- hiking, photographing, drawing and painting, collaging and consulting among other creative outlets.
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1 Response to Doodling-DO!

  1. Dar Hosta says:

    Great post! I have a doodling son who was regularly told not to doodle and I KNOW he checked out as soon as he put down his pen.

    Beautiful photographs, too!

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