Students Sketchnote Classic Kafka & Contemporary Black Mirror

High school students in Lauren Zucker’s Honors Modern Fiction & Nonfiction class recently created sketchnotes for two texts written nearly one hundred years apart: Franz Kafka’s classic novella, The Metamorphosis (1915), and the latest release from Netflix’s popular Black Mirror series, the interactive film, Bandersnatch (2018).

Zucker first introduced students to sketchnoting by using excerpts from Rohde’s The Sketchnote Handbook, a YouTube video of Rohde’s “Sketchnote Mini-Workshop” (that allowed students to draw along with Rohde), and McGregor’s Ink & Ideas, a sketchnoting book for educators.

*SPOILER ALERT*  Students’ sketchnotes contain plot spoilers.

  • Metamorphosis Part 1 sketchnote by Kendall S. (12th grade).

Sketchnoting The Metamorphosis

Zucker suspected that Kafka’s highly descriptive and visual text—in which the protagonist, Gregor Samsa, famously transforms into an insect—would lend itself to beginner sketchnoting. Though Kafka himself did not want readers to draw the insect, even Nabakov ignored Kafka’s wishes, doodling a rendition of the bug in his personal teaching copy of The Metamorphosis.

After showing students several ways to structure sketchnotes from The Sketchnote Handbook (e.g., modular, vertical, radial), Zucker suggested that students organize their notes for The Metamorphosis in three sections to match Kafka’s three-part structure for the novella. For a more detailed post about Zucker’s introduction to sketchnotes, see here.

A common practice in Zucker’s class, students had the option to complete their work digitally or on paper. About two-thirds of her students created sketchnotes digitally, while about one-third opted to take notes on paper.

Depicting Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch

When the class viewed Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch, students were instructed to take notes while viewing the film; though visual notes were not required, many students elected to take sketchnotes. This might be due to the story structure itself—a choose-your-own-adventure style narrative path determined by the viewer’s decisions.

Bandersnatch sketchnote by Cameron H. (11th grade).
  • Bandersnatch sketchnote-in-progress by Emily B. (11th grade).

Here’s a pair of sketchnotes that depicts all of the narrative paths in Bandersnatch. [Note: Major spoilers ahead!]

  • Bandersnatch sketchnote (Part 1) by Yajas S. (11th grade).
Bandersnatch sketchnote by Reed S. (11th grade).

World Sketchnote Day “Daily Doodle” Activity

To celebrate World Sketchnote Day, which coincided with this series of assignments, Zucker’s students did a variation of the Sketchnote Army’s “daily doodle” activity, in which participants spend one minute sketching the word of the day on a post-it note—anyone interested can participate on the Sketchnote Army Slack Channel.

Students poised to draw a “daily doodle.”

In Zucker’s class, students had one minute to depict a topic (related to Bandersnatch) on a post-it note: technology, mirror, or adventure.

Zucker’s students’ Bandersnatch-themed daily doodles displayed at the front of the classroom on World Sketchnote Day 2019.
Close-up of Bandersnatch-themed daily doodles.

Since completing these tasks, several students have opted to continue taking visual notes in Zucker’s English class.

See the slideshow below for examples of these talented high school students’ Metamorphosis sketchnotes!

  • Metamorphosis sketchnote by Jake V. (11th grade).

Are you a teacher using visual notetaking in your classroom? Comment below with your feedback and ideas!

Lastly, see below for Daisy L.’s (11th grade) Metamorphosis sketchnotes drawn in OneNote. Scroll down (or zoom out) to view them in full.

  • Metamorphosis sketchnote (Part 1) by Daisy L. (11th grade).

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