The Doodling Thing

An insight into the doodling thing is to engage the doodlers in either a private or classroom discussion, but tell them that they have to “check in” with you visually from time to time. Like every thirty seconds or so.
To not do so would be to convey the same quality of disrespect that would happen when someone you were talking to one on one decided to looked elsewhere during the conversation.
The students’ argument that doodling helps them focus is bogus. It is an excuse to avoid the human interaction work that is the trick of our trade and why our way of teaching works in ways that are completely immeasurable by current assessment instruments.
The students’ argument that they are doodling what is going on in the story, or that they are taking notes of some kind, is weak and only applies to a few kids. Most kids who use this argument are, again, trying to fool us into letting them avoid the hard work of actually interacting with another human being – we are their teacher for God’s sake. Letting them get away with that argument would be to hold up a sign in class stating that we are fools and that we don’t really believe our rules.
Doodling is an escape mechanism and so now, after reflecting thoughtfully in my classes for a few weeks since Elissa brought this up, I conclude that doodlers absolutely must be required to periodically look up from their creation  with the look of understanding that I insist on from all my kids all the time in rule #4 – clear eyes.
I actually ask more “What did I just say?” questions of doodlers to keep them honest. Doodlers know that they will get more walking visits over to their desks from me than other kids.* The more I talk to colleagues, the more I can see that our method will work much better for us re: discipline if we just do this one simple thing of keeping kids in active visual contact with us. If we can’t do this, we shouldn’t even try the method. Teaching to the eyes – don’t leave home without it.
Those few kids who look at me with obvious lack of consciousness, who only look at me because they are told to do so and actually believe that they are fooling me into believing that they are “with me”, those are the kids who won’t get much of a grade from me. We can’t differentiate them all. Should participation then count in the grading process? My answer to that one is a big hell yes.
But I digress. Back to the need to keep ALL of the kids, even the artist, accountable. The artist, wherever she is located, must sit where she can see/participate in the lesson just like any other student, getting up to draw in short bursts and then coming back to sit down and participate again. Also, my rule #7 about actors (“Synchronize your actions with my words”) applies to the artists as well – they MUST synchronize what they draw with my words and not add in any information that isn’t in the story.
Yesterday, two kids wanted to be the artists, in spite of my rule that only one kid can draw. Of course I let them. They never came out from behind the rolling whiteboard. Their drawing was accurate, very good really, but once, when I asked them what I just said, they responded with something that happened three or four minutes before. They weren’t listening in the moment, which is how we learn languages.
Just some thoughts about doodlers and artists. In the end, both have to be held accountable to enter with the rest of us into this strange new world of language instruction through the ears, with the eyes as mere support mechanisms, and not vice versa.
*if I sense that a student is off task I often walk over to their desk and talk to them in L2 with a smile on my face. I whisper to them in L1 that I must not be doing a good job because they don’t understand, and I want to do better. Another way to say this is that if we are to make this method work we need to quit being interns. We need to cowboy up with them dogies!



1 thought on “The Doodling Thing”

  1. After seven years of working at TPRS, this year it has become crystal clear to me that “teaching to the eyes” is paramount. (I’m constantly amazed at how different aspects of this approach come into focus at different times.) And I agree about doodling. I will be interested to see if doodlers can in fact check in visually every 30 seconds or so, if I ask them to.

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