I have always been a doodler. My high school notebooks were filled with caricatures, inked poetry and random visual thoughts. My university notes were no different. As a child, I remember being yelled at by teachers who accused me of disruptive behavior. I never quite saw it that way. On the contrary, I found that it helped me think and concentrate. It made the days sitting in dull classrooms, listening to my professors monotone voices, more bearable.
Several years ago, my daughter’s teacher, an award winning middle school educator, reprimanded her for drawing ladies with big, curly hair in the margins of her class notes. By then I had read enough about brain science to understand why doodling helps some students focus better, and had shared these tips for improved learning and focus with my children.
During our last parent-teacher conference, the teacher declared: “I think she is destined to become a hairdresser. All she draws is hair. It’s very elaborate, you know.” I must have seemed confused. My daughter is a twin, and her sister doodled clowns all the time. Her teachers, however, had never suggested that she might want to be a professional clown when she grew up. I saw my daughters future careers flashing before my eyes: one a hairdresser and the other a clown (not that there is anything wrong with either profession). It was hard not to laugh. “Drawing just helps my daughter focus.” I informed her. The teacher frowned, not appreciating of my input. “Well, it’s not acceptable in my class. She is losing points on her assignments.”
While I have met some teachers who seem to really understand the connection between brain science, sensory processing and learning, others clearly do not. It is important for all teachers to understand these connections in order to promote the best outcomes in their students.
There are many reasons to allow doodling in the classroom:
Some Facts About Doodling and Your Brain
- People who doodle show 29% more information retention in memory tests.
- People who doodle while listening to a speaker show improved attention span and focus.
- Doodling is not a window into our psychology, but it can tie what we’re hearing into a visual story.
- Doodling may trigger the brain’s “default networks” (areas of the brain that stay active when we are checked out) to keep us engaged.
- Doodling seems to help retain auditory information, not visual information.
- Your brain is highly visual and sees words as images.
- Doodling can help with better processing of scientific information.
- Doodling can help with creativity, because it allows the brain to meander and make new connections.
My kids all still doodle, and so do I. My daughter, the one who was reprimanded by her teacher, is about to graduate high school. She is an excellent student and still doodles curly haired ladies with rounded lips and big eyes. As of yet, she has no plans to become a hairdresser.