One of the major issues I encounter with secondary school students is they both don’t know how to and are generally unwilling to take notes on what they read.  Recently, this got me thinking about a sketching/pictograph technique I used all the way in my student clinic days called Stickwriting wherein the student basically took notes on main ideas or points using quick sketches or pictographs.  Although Stickwriting was officially for narrative text, I recall we tested it out on expository text as well. The student seemed to enjoy this method of note-taking and was quite successful with it. 

Recently, the author of Stickwriting, the brilliant Teresa Ukrainetz, created a method for expository texts called Sketch and Speak that involves a similar pictograph note system.  Although it’s a new approach, it looks promising in how it may engage students and allow them to work around or compensate for poor writing and spelling skills. I decided to write a summary of the protocol for anyone who wants to use it and doesn’t have the time to sift through the entire 2018 Ukrainetz article for how to do this (or those who do have time but who will forget the details after!).  Enjoy, use, and modify at your prerogative!

Ukrainetz (2018) Sketch and Speak Protocol Summary

*disclaimer: I am not the author of this research study so misinterpretation or modification may occur from the original article.  See the full article for details.

Session 1: Pictograph Notes

  1. Read mini passage and stop to have students note key points/ideas.
  2. Cue students to draw pictographs for 2-3 points or ideas with “quick and easy, just enough to remember” sketches.
  3. Students cued to make or explain each idea/point with a complete, grammatical, and fluent sentence.  The cue used in the research study was “Say it simply.” Personally, I would not include the requirement for fluent for stuttering, but would want the sentence to be put-together (rather than having a lot of pausing/restatements).
    • If the student can’t form a sentence, scaffold them.  I assume this means sentences starters or partial sentence models and recasts as needed.
  4. Opening and closing sentences are introduced with a note (e.g., “tell about interesting”, “hope you enjoyed”) written at the top and bottom of the form.  My take on what this means: students wrote these above and below their pictograph notes and use these lines to add opening and closing oral sentences to their “report”.
  5. Students are cued to make a full oral report with their pictograph notes ( I assume including the opening and closing statement).

Session 2: Bullet Points

  1. Students retell their oral report using only their previous pictograph notes.
  2. Students turn each pictographically-cued oral sentence into “quick and easy, just enough to remember” spoken words (basically oral bullet points)
  3.  Students write down each oral bullet point (basically, they change each spoken-word note to a written bullet point).  No periods, no focus on spelling just best-guess.
  4. Change each written bullet into a full oral sentence again.
  5. Have the students retell their whole oral report using only the written bullet points (now basically written notes!)

My Tips for Sketch and Speak:

  • Model how to do the pictograph notes the first 1-2 times and scaffold as needed.  I plan to sketch them on my blackboard or on a whiteboard that everyone can look at.
  • Fit in what you can.  Supposedly each session is 30 minutes, but I plan to work at the students’ pace and refresh their memories about the process as needed.
  • Use very short passages first and then gradually try this out with longer passages.  I plan to start with these 1-paragraph passages by Amy Haselden.  Then I may try this protocol with these lengthier Main Idea and Summarizing passages by Nicole Allison.  I don’t intend to use the questions or tasks that came with them, but rather would re-purpose these passages for this task. 
  • Using short passages from their curriculum and classwork reading may also work for this activity, if the passages are not too difficult or significantly about their comprehension and vocabulary level.
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