Listen for Their Voice

What a completely glorious weekend! From the moment I woke up yesterday, the sun pushed  through the blinds and took hold of my mood. twitter UVChecking the weather app, I tweeted that, indeed, we were now measuring the UV index again! UV index and seeing my first robin count as the harbingers of spring for me.  My husband and I hold a contest (which I ALWAYS win…) to see who spots a robin first in spring. But in February?  Not likely.

I couldn’t wait to get outside. My eldest daughter, Hannah, and I commit to a routine when she returns home for a visit: a long walk. Green space holds a magic spell on our well-being so we crave the outdoors to draw out our burdens, and our conversation, like a mini-retreat.  Yesterday did not disappoint. The ever-present sound of water –  roofs raining, grates draining – provided a soundtrack for our hike.  As we zigzagged to opposite sidewalks to dodge puddles, I grabbed Hannah’s arm.

“Stop. Listen.”


“A robin.”

“How do you know it’s a robin if you can’t see it?”

Scouring the treetops we searched for what I knew must be neaRobinsrby. We listened again. Sure enough, a wave of robins had just moved into the neighbourhood and they were jostling for branch positions above us, exhausted from their journey of migration. I was thrilled because:  spring is on the horizon, and I won first-robin-sighting of the season!

There are many ways to identify birds: their plumage, their behaviour, their flight pattern, their location. But when you can’t actually see them, you rely on listening. Sure, robins have a call and song that most people recognize. Other birds require closer inspection and the ability to close out other sounds to isolate just their song. The catbird is a trickster mimicking birds around it confusing me and their predators.

Birding requires listening closely, knowing where to look as a result, and patience. Years of practice tunes your ears to a bird’s song, a bird’s call, their voice.

As I’m in the midst of supporting newer teachers with their writing programs, I’m reminded that these same habits are necessary in our writing workshops. We listen closely to detect what to look for when giving feedback and next steps, and tune in to identify and nurture student voice. When we are reading student writing, we are really listening to their voice, their song. We know the voice we speak with isn’t the one we write with (unless we’re texting). It’s not only what we say, but how we say it that reveals a writer’s voice. We also know that one of the biggest challenges in writing is saying what we mean! Does my message match my thinking…my inner voice? Listening to a student reading their own writing can sometimes bridge the that distance.

Like my birding example, we use a variety of ways to identify students don’t we? By their academic achievement, their behaviour, the friends they hang out with, even their fashion style. How many of us recognize our students’ writing by their voice, their song? If a writer’s voice is what uniquely identifies their writing, how often are they engaged in writing that exercises it? What’s more, how do we teach and empower students to identify and value their own voice, the voice that both reflects and shapes their identity?neil_gaiman_quote_06

Not surprisingly, our voice is most evident, most confident when we write our own stories.  We are more likely to bring confidence because we are experts on ourselves. Penny Kittle calls writers’ notebooks tools for all of us to find our voice. I think we find ourselves in the process. That notebook may be the place I start with newer educators, to play with and model our own writer’s voice. And find our song. For how can we listen for a student’s voice before we’ve learned how to identify our own?







Leading by Example: Take Action and Model It for Students

example quoteI value the role we teachers play as models for our students both in reading and writing. I believe that we are better equipped to have deep conversations in conferences with students when we read a variety of texts they’re reading. Teachers who share and display what they’re currently reading find books fly off their shelves. I believe that we are more likely to empathize with the challenges student writers face when we write ourselves. Exemplars offer a glimpse of an end product for students to aspire to, however, teachers who share the struggle of the writing process find students are more likely to take risks and more capable of honing their craft when writing.

I believe we can also play a role in modelling curiosity, passion, and how we take action in response to what we have read and learned.

One of the commitments I made public this year in an earlier post was to embrace the real world by blurring the lines between inside and outside school. I’m always looking for authentic texts and tasks to engage students, to bring the world into the classroom. But I also want to bring our students out into the world, to act, to impact our world, to make a difference. This is the ultimate demonstration of insightful understanding: that students are compelled to act in some way to respond to what they have learned.

My thinking around this has been greatly informed by the work of Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels compiled in Comprehension and Collaboration (2015, new ed.) My team has used this book to guide our work with teachers around inquiry, comprehending text, and how students make their thinking visible. The Comprehension Continuum within this text outlines the spectrum of how we ask students to demonstrate their understanding of text, from answering literal questions to actively using knowledge. It serves as a ladder to higher order thinking and is a reflective tool to remind us of where we may spend most of our time.Comp Continuum

In my last post, Teaching the Headlines, I shared a variety of texts and ideas to explore the Syrian Refugee Crisis.  I wondered about the potential of these texts to engage students, make the world relevant, and launch an inquiry. In some ways, perhaps I too was on an inquiry journey. I gathered my resources (picture books, news articles, Humans of New York images and stories, novels) and I talked to others about what I’d learned, both to make sense of it but also to raise awareness. I had (still have) questions about the crisis: What is the difference between a refugee and a migrant? What would Canada do if these refugees were at our border? Why are we not responding as Canadians in a way that respects humanity and matches our value of honouring diversity? How might this ever get resolved? How do we benefit from hearing refugees’ stories? How is the Central American migration of children to the U.S. similar/different to the Syrian refugee crisis? What can I do?

In fact, it was in the midst of this phase of filling my background knowledge with texts, and grappling with big questions, that I came across the Ride for Refuge. This is an annual ride (or walk) where participants can choose a charity of their choice according to particular criteria: the displaced, vulnerable, and exploited.  I chose to support the Canadian Global Response, an organization that has a Syrian Refugee initiative as its focus for this ride. As soon as I saw the video promo, I knew it was for me! The combination of two of my passions, cycling and migration, was perfect.

Just like in the classroom where you can’t always plan for the direction students’ inquiries may take you, so too, I dove into the topic, gathered a variety of resources, asked questions, chose to take action, identified a project that I could commit to, and am still reflecting. I continue to follow the day to day coverage of the Syrian Refugee Crisis. And just like in class, it’s messy, it’s not linear, it’s not over. But I came across a way for me to take action and respond to what I had been learning. I identified my passions and found a way to respond. Perhaps at the beginning of the year, the inquiry is teacher-led and shared by the whole class. Then, as students develop their collaborative skills, invest in their inquiry toolkit, and build their background knowledge, students will also identify their passions and craft an inquiry they can pursue.  As Harvey and Daniels claim, you expand your understanding by taking action.

What happens when kids, and adults, get globally and locally engaged in socially conscious projects? They:

  • nurture empathy and value others
  • exercise global citizenship
  • grapple with complex issues that have no simple answers
  • learn that one step, one person can make a difference
  • raise awareness in their community
  • take responsibility and exhibit leadership skills
  • identify and explore an issue they’re passionate about
  • spend less time navel-gazing and focusing on their problems

Actively using what I had learned by participating in the Ride for Refuge was beneficial emotionally too. It makes you feel good to know you’re taking a step to making a difference. But it also invited many others to become involved by supporting the initiative monetarily. An unintended consequence of taking action as a global citizen is your circle of influence gets to know you better. Your world, and your heart, grows a little bit bigger.




Teaching the Headlines: 3 Guiding Questions when Exploring the Syrian Refugee Crisis

The images haunt you.

The numbers confront you.

                    The headlines provoke you.


As teachers, we grapple with how to start a conversation about these news stories and whether the information is appropriate for our students. And we make a choice: do I ignore, or do I engage? I hope to encourage and support you as you bring the world into your classroom. I’ve found that in my practice, embedding current events and facing tough issues has the potential to move students.  They feel like they are part of something bigger than our class. And it accelerates thinking and conversation.  Here are 3 questions to guide your thinking as you explore this issue to raise awareness, understanding and empathy around the current Syrian refugee crisis.

#1 What background knowledge do I need to build … for my students AND for myself … before investigating the Syrian refugee crisis in class?

Fill your bucket. Before embarking on a conversation about the harsh reality facing Syrian refugees, you will want to devote a bit of time to reading the news. Here’s a great introduction to the issue from Free the Children founder, Craig Kielburger: It frames the Syrian refugee crisis in terms of the global refugee crisis and explores the differences between refugees and migrants. Included you will find background information for yourself as well as ideas for the classroom. You’ll be filling your own toolkit while considering strategies to get your students thinking and talking. Consider subscribing to this newsletter from Free the Children and it will arrive in your email regularly! You may also want to follow some folks on twitter who weigh in on different perspectives and collect links that will provide some background to build your confidence around the topic. Just search keywords to find sources.

Know your students. You’ll be considering their age and grade, their sensitivity, their awareness of global issues. If you’re a Me to We school, your students may already bring a solid understanding of social justice issues and are clamouring to talk about the headlines. In other school communities, students may be less tuned in to global issues. Regardless of your setting, meet them where they’re at.  It’s still early in the year and you may wish to invest a little more time into getting to know your students and their reading interests and abilities prior to launching into a complex topic like this. In that case, you can save this information for down the road.

#2 How do I provide appropriate but accessible, informative but meaningful texts for students to read?

It’s early in the year so you haven’t had an opportunity yet to delve deeply into some rich texts that will be pivotal to your students’ comprehension. You haven’t yet built a bank of themes, the universal truths to these stories that support students’ ability to make connections between their lives and the story, and between texts. So…let’s get started.

Gather a text set. I love Stephanie Harvey’s idea about flooding the room with resources. Combine non-fiction, such as newspapers, biographies, images and videos, with fiction, such as picture books, novels, digital texts, poetry. Gather texts at different reading levels … whatever texts that resemble the issue, get at the common themes, and speak to the heart too! Here are some ideas to get you started.

imagePicture books:  In your school’s Character Ed. Kit, you will find Four Feet, Two Sandals, by Karen Lynn Williams and Khadra Mohammed. In your school’s Race and Ethnicity kit, you will find: When I Get Older (an autobiography of K’Naan’s family fleeing Somalia), Migrant (by Maxine Trottier), and One Green Apple (by Eve Bunting). Gleam and Glow is a touching story also written by Eve Bunting that follows a family forced from their home during the Bosnia conflict. With powerful narratives like these, students are more likely to bond and empathize with the characters’ experiences than perhaps a news article. Themes revolve around searching for a better life, finding a sense of belonging, determining identity, overcoming fears, the harsh reality of making difficult choices. Some stories are about the experiences facing refugees, some are about migrants. THAT discussion alone would be worthwhile. By choosing to couple fiction and non-fiction across a variety of texts, we are more likely to touch the hearts and minds of our students.

imageNovels: Not surprisingly, you may not have a novel on the current Syrian refugee crisis, but you might consider these ideas since the challenges the characters face and the themes may be similar: The Red Pencil (by Andrea Davis Pinkney, a novel written in verse), Esperanza Rising (by Pam Munoz Ryan), Home of the Brave (by Katherine Applegate and also in every elementary school’s Race and Ethnicity kit), a Long Walk to Water (by Linda Sue Park), Children of War: Voices of Iraqi Refugees,  and No Safe Place (both by Deborah Ellis).

News: Teaching Kids News offers up-to-date lower reading levels of current events. This week you will find an article on Canada’s response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis: This site offers supporting questions and curriculum connections. Another news site, Newsela, also offers ongoing lower reading level articles: , but you’ll need to sign up for a free account.


Poetry: Voice from Afar: Poems of Peace, by Tony Johnston, has heartfelt, richly crafted poems about children affected by conflict.

If you have other ideas for poetry, please let me know.

#3 How do I fit this topic in my literacy block?

Start with images. Images level the playing field in reading and are accessible to all. Use the observe/infer/wonder strategy to honour student thinking and give them an opportunity to make sense of what they’re seeing.   If they’re new to the strategy, model your own thinking first.  For some initial images that are safe for younger grades, yet will grab your students’ attention and promote questions, please check out this project from the Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan:  Syria’s refugees: Girls use photography to document life You’ll want to share the project’s genesis and purpose as you uncover the stories behind the images.


Deconstruct video clips too. Many NGO’s have short clips that could support your exploration. Here’s a stunning example: If you have an intermediate class, you might consider the different ‘walk a mile in their shoes’ lens this video offers:   This Amnesty International clip also addresses the refugee/migrant experience uniquely:

Read aloud: choose a picture book from the suggestions that speak to you. Don’t feel pressured to read it at one sitting. In fact, you may wish to make it last over a couple of days to allow for think alouds, turn and talk and student questions. And you’ll ignite grand conversations as you move from questions such as ‘Why do people migrate?’… to ‘How do we all benefit from hearing stories of refugees and migrants?’


Shared Reading: Choose a news article, or one of the suggestions above that would provide a springboard for investigating new vocabulary, analysis of message, and is engaging enough to return to over 5 days. Perhaps you’d combine deconstructing a selection of images on Monday that would activate some background knowledge for a shared reading text to explore the rest of the week.

Independent reading: When you spark interest for an issue through your read aloud, image analysis, or shared reading, students will want to know more! Consider making available a range of texts they can access independently, such as the novels suggested above. Perhaps you will imagewant to maintain a subscription to Scholastic Scope magazine as it brings new relevant issues to your classroom monthly. You may want to order this archive issue of Scope magazine from January 2015 entitled We were Just Like You: Now We are Refugees:

Not only will you be modelling reading comprehension strategies, you will be attending to the revised Social Studies/History/Geography document. The citizenship framework focuses on how students learn to:

  • participate in their community,
  • identify and develop their sense of connectedness to global communities,
  • respect others’ perspectives,
  • investigate moral and ethical dimensions of developments, events, and issues , and also,
  • demonstrate empathy.

And further, “Teachers need to integrate current events and issues within the curriculum expectations and not treat them as separate topics … to help students analyse controversial issues and global events and stimulate interest in the world around them.”

More importantly, it matters. You will be modelling compassion.

In my next post, I hope to share some ideas around how students might explore further inquiries as a result of these conversations, and how they might express their feelings, their opinions and their understanding in writing, and be compelled to take action.

Further resources: This week’s blog is a treasure of books and online resources to support teachers, entitled Children as Refugees: The Syrian Crisis.

For a brave blogger’s perspective on this issue that made me think today, please visit:


I admit I tend to be an action person, jumping in with both feet, easily drawn to myriad possibilities. You may overhear me saying, “We could do this, or this, or this…” Being invited by @MrSurti to think about some new year commitments forced me to stop and consider those areas of my professional life that could benefit from closer attention. Just like Nancie Atwell pushes her students to consider where they’d like to go in their writing, I had to ask myself, “Where would I like to go this year in terms of my professional growth?”

Embrace the Real World


“I will not dwell in a bubble.”



I commit to embracing the real world by blurring the lines between inside and outside school. As I support teachers in literacy, I diligently want to look for authentic texts and tasks to engage students, to bring the world into the classroom. I want to ‘check’ routine practices from the past. For example, if we don’t complete comprehension questions, worksheets or book reports after reading a novel in the real world, then we won’t be doing that in classrooms either. Instead, we’ll have conversations, we may share reviews through book talks or online platforms. While I travel, read about, and volunteer in the real world, I am reminded to break down the walls of the classroom for students and teachers to participate in global conversations. Technology is one powerful way to bridge these worlds. I need to value students’ outside school literacies and support teachers in embedding meaningful use of technology in literacy. And that goes for my role too. I may not be in a classroom currently, but I need to model how to share my thinking publicly via social media and when I am facilitating professional learning.

Empathize with the Hard Work of Students Writing

“I will not hide my struggle.”

In order to imagine and empathize with students’ fears of writing and sharing their writing, I commit to engaging in the same process. I need to explore a variety of forms of writing, purposes for writing, share publicly, and seek feedback. Intimidating! I’ve always tried to adopt the mantra of never asking someone to do what you wouldn’t do yourself. But I somehow managed to excuse myself as a teacher from writing. With our focus on writing for Journeys into Literacy this year, I have a perfect motivator and no excuse. Part of this commitment will require sharing the struggle too.  A post I read last night (@avivaloca) reminded me that we should avoid using our social media only as a highlight trailer of all the great things we are doing, but instead, to willingly share the messy moments too.

Empower Others

Having the Last Word       “I will not have the last word.”

I commit to actively seeking out opportunities to empower others around me. This past summer I heard a speaker claim that you are one conversation away from a relationship that could change the course of your life…and theirs. If I express curiosity about others, listen actively, and am present in the moment, I am more confident that I will have others’ best interests at heart…and not my own. Further, I don’t have to have my hands in every pot! When I create space for others, they grow too.

Perhaps an unnerving aspect of responding to the challenge of revealing my commitments means that there is an unspoken understanding of accountability. Hopefully, evidence of these commitments will surface in my work.


The Numbers Keep Shifting


 3 4 days in

8 9 bus drivers assassinated

1.8 million San Salvadorans staying home from class, or hitching a ride to work, or walking miles

A bus strike has gripped San Salvador, some say crippled the city; not for wages, not for benefits, but because gangs want to send a message to the government to negotiate with them ( El Salvador bus drivers go on strike, or Bus Drivers Strike in El Salvador after Gang-Related Killings).

In a recent blog I shared the experience of riding a bus in San Salvador, Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable.  Little did I know that within a month that bus system would be the arena where gang violence would yet again flex its muscle and exert its power over the people and its government.  Owing to the population’s reliance on the bus system, I wondered how this is impacting everyday life there. My daughter, Hannah, has had to walk, group cab, and hitch a ride on a pickup truck to get to work.  Here is some of my conversation with my daughter yesterday:

Had soldiers on both my methods of transport today. It’s a little unnerving riding with soldiers. Feels like a warzone.

How do you know what pickup truck to jump on?

They spray paint on their windshields where they’re going.

Hannah's images

Hannah’s images












And the strength, creativity and resilience of a people, and my girl, are stretched again.

It might not last much longer.

The bus companies (may) decide to go back to work.

Ridiculously dangerous.

Yes and no. There’s been 85 bus drivers killed this year.

Strike or no strike.

18 17 days until my daughter returns to Canada.


Identity: Merging Who You Are with What You’ll Learn

I’m interested in how my identity determines how I read the world and conversely, how the world reads me.

At WorkIdentity DNA

All year I’ve been exploring the power of identity on how we choose and make sense of text. In our Journeys into Literacy series, we reflected on and even sketched our identity webs to gain clarity on its impact on our reading lives. Clearly connections to text are made through what a reader brings to text, which is identity and background knowledge.  Of course, my identity reaches far beyond the books I read; it informs and shapes my thinking and judgements. Indeed, the roots of my biases are planted in my identity, whether positive or negative. In school, teachers spend a lot of time getting to know students because identity impacts success. Beyond relationship and community building, exploring diversity, and assessment to determine support, knowing kids cues us to which books to put in kids’ hands.

Before My Trip to El Salvador

I bring what I’ll call ‘background knowledge’ baggage on my trip. The stories of child migration, particularly from Central America, have dominated my reading life and been a catalyst for some inquiry I’ve modelled with teachers with whom I work. One of the stories I’ve read, Sonia Nazario’s Enrique’s Journey, invites you to join an epic dangerous trip that mirrors the route many young Hondurans, but also Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans embark on to escape violence and despair. A hopeful but treacherous journey that, like their home country, doesn’t necessarily hold a happy ending. The States faces a prickly polarizing issue as thousands of Central American children reach its borders. And El Salvador headlines shout the statistics of 25 deaths per day these past few months.

El Sal Hannah and meWith my daughter living in El Salvador at this time, I recoil, I worry. I am conflicted. Just like two years ago when she was robbed at gunpoint.  I had a choice to make.  Your natural motherly response is to get her on the next plane home!  But I knew that every mom in El Salvador no doubt wishes she could save her children and escape the ongoing threat of potential violence.

Being There

So how does my identity or background knowledge help or hinder my frame of reference? This kind of baggage I carry can’t be checked at the airport. You can’t undo knowing what you know. You have to find a way to merge what you bring with what you’ll learn. You wear your white privilege. How does my power position me? What do I carry with me that is a barrier to really seeing? Certainly my developing Spanish skills create a barrier to understanding. Only because of my daughter living in El Salvador right now do I catch a glimpse of some aspects of life that, as a tourist, I would not have been aware of. El Salvador is not a tourist destination. Not that it couldn’t be with its lush tropical landscape, its rich cultural heritage, and its miles of sandy beach. But right now, no tourists, save a few surfers and backpackers travelling through the country. Its reputation for violence bars most travellers. I came to wonder if Salvadorans may only expect white visitors if they were part of NGO’s working there. Despite this, you cannot walk down the sidewalk without every Salvadoran greeting you.

A dizzying array of economic, socio-political, environmental factors plague this small country of 6 million. I cannot speak to it for I am still learning. I can only share my observations. My understanding filtered through my identity.

El Salvador wall I cannot speak to the weight of years of poverty, violence and hardship.El Salvador wall2

I cannot process the recent memory of the civil war in their families. I can read the names of the 30,000 lives murdered or ‘disappeared’ that have so far been engraved on this memorial wall:  The Wall of Truth and Memory. Respectfully, I can be a bystander to a 3 or 4 generation family visiting the memory of their loved one(s) with a rose, touching their name.

Even Oscar Romero’s name is almost hidden amongst the tens of thousands.El Salvador Romero name on wall

The weight of this history is everywhere.  The displacement of so many fleeing the civil war and then returning, the as yet unhealed wounds, manifests itself in the ubiquitous security…

El Sal police at beachwhether military in fatigues strolling on the beach,

police checkpoints on highways,



police riding in the back of pickups with fingers on machine guns, El Sal military in pickup



El Sal security on streetor security guards with guns at every single business,

even the juice bar.El sal security at juice bar

 Random roadside stops where you slalom between pylons, and police require drivers to pull up their shirts to search for gang tattoos. Identity.

It contributes to my edge-of-your-seat feeling. It’s so beyond my Canadian reality, identity.

Hopeful Change

And you drop off your daughter at the central park in one of the gang-controlled suburbs of San Salvador, Quetzaltepeque, where buildings are emblazoned with graffiti identifying which gang is in charge here, and I see one English phrase: “Welcome to death valley.” (Heat? Violence?) There is a program being pursued in this community funded by USAID. Today, they are celebrating its potential. Now, you don’t pull out your iphone as a GPS, you can’t ask for directions, and we can’t hang around the park to wait for Hannah while she attends.

Worry sits like a weight on my chest all afternoon.

She returns with images, stories and a smile. Young people from the community share their involvement in music and dance as a means of instilling a sense of belonging outside of a gang. A new, a different, identity.

el sal marching bandel sal white balloonsel sal danceAnd hope is ignited again.

A Writer’s Notebook: Seashells, Sand Dollars and Sketches

sand dollarA writer’s notebook is a storehouse of ideas, memories, treasures, or seeds as Anne Elliott calls them. In the past, I often provided my students with notebooks to collect their thinking, more of a learning log than a writer’s notebook really. If I knew then what I know now! I would show them my own, show them I struggle. I would not cripple them with prompts. When you walk down a beach, you grab a stick … to write messages in the sand, to turn over seashells or rocks and examine them more closely, to coax crabs out of their holes. But those fragile sand dollars, you handle with care. A pencil is like that stick, turning over your thoughts and ideas to determine which ones you’ll harvest and others you may discard as you stroll through your notebook pages.

Propelled by the pressure of knowing our literacy team intends to poke and muck about in writing in the coming year, I packed a fresh notebook to El Salvador, fully intending on writing while I was there. In addition, two novels made the cut and were packed in the suitcase.

At least two things I learned about myself while I was away:

  1. When I read, I escape into the pages, fully engaged. When I travelled to El Salvador, I could not pick up a book as I found it distracted me from reading the world I was immersed in. Further, there wasn’t really opportunity through the day to sit and read anywhere. You’re always moving or finely tuned in to your surroundings. By bedtime, I was still replaying the day’s movie.
  2. When I write, it is still a painful time-consuming process. When I travelled, I tried to grab ideas, photos, business cards and tickets, quick jots about what I observed, lists (things not to do in El Salvador). My notebook acted like more of a holding tank for the fresh catches of the day.  I hoped that I would return to sift and select those sand dollars to share with others.

I am slowly working away at drawing out the reflections I have in that scrapbook of ideas, however, today I thought I’d share a sketch I’d drawn after a day of driving from San Salvador to La Playa Esteron. The only reason I chose to sketch was because it’s a means of thinking and recording ideas that is completely foreign to me. I wanted to try it despite my lack of artistic skill because I can appreciate its value to students and adults. I had seen amazing, thought-provoking sketchnotes that captured the essence of a talk or a timeline. A former colleague, Cindy Little (@littles84), is still an artistic marvel to me in sketchnoting. Her notebooks burst with visual renderings of her thinking while she listens and observes. My supervisor, Sue Bruyns, blogged about sketchnoting earlier today:

el salvador sketchnoteMy sketch is mostly a stylized map, but when I look at it, I’m reminded of not only the journey, but the creation of the sketch, what I chose to include, what each image meant to me, where I was sitting when I created it. Words alone would have filled pages. I found a quote on twitter today that called a sketchnote a zip file for knowledge (@cwodtke).