Saint Ignatius High School


Written by Julianna Burrows of the Department of Fine Arts.

This post is part of the Center for Ignatian Pedagogy's quarterly blog "Perspectives from the Classroom" featuring innovative, creative, and inspiring perspectives on teaching and learning from our exceptional faculty and staff.


Doodling.  It’s one of those things that most of us have probably done before.  Whether it’s when you’re put on hold during a phone call or sitting at a desk during a school lecture, it can happen, without premeditation.  I teach art, so this seems second nature to my subject matter, however, I probably doodled the most in classes unrelated to art in high school.  I’ve since learned that doodling is not an indication of the brain being unengaged- it might actually be evidence of attentiveness, or at least an honest effort to keep the brain engaged when it’s on the verge of checking out.  This natural, relatively common, engagement strategy is one that I’ve formally incorporated into my daily teaching practice.

Instead of living on the margins of worksheets and back covers of spiral notebooks, my students’ doodles now have a dedicated space to reside, and it only requires a few minutes of class time.  And, with intentional facilitation, I hope to authenticate its value in the learning process with a good balance of spontaneity and structure.  It’s that beautiful moment when a student is literally, and figuratively able to see a collection of small marks, or thoughts, form a bigger picture, or clearer understanding.  And it’s even better when it’s a picture he created himself.

We begin class with prayer.  Following prayer, the students in my Visual Arts classes open their handmade sketchbooks to their “reflection page.”  This page consists of multiple hand-drawn overlapping shapes that form new shapes in which students participate in structured reflective doodling.  They are provided with a prompt to flicker thought.  Faith, loved ones, imagination, curiosity, knowledge, emotion, and recall are all worthy daily doodling topics.  Doodling the words of a meaningful prayer, the name of someone on our mind, a fictional creature, a question we’d like to ask, something we already knew before entering the room, how we are feeling in the moment, or the name of that one thing we learned last class is, I hope, engaging the student in active learning by making it visible.  The student is creating something uniquely personal, through which gaps are filled, connections are made, memory is improved, and a sense of self strengthened.  In the center of it all?  Perhaps a shape with AMDG doodled inside.