A visit to the Ron Clark Academy


(Photo credit: Ron Clark Academy)

Every now and then you have an experience in your life that has such an impact on you that you feel at a loss for words. As I sit in the Atlanta airport now waiting for my flight back to Toronto, I’m trying to process the past few hours that had my emotions fluctuating from anticipation to delight to incredulousness to gratitude to hopefulness and finally, to tears of joy.


(Photo credit: Ron Clark Academy)

You see, I just completed a full-day teacher-training session at the Ron Clark Academy in inner city Atlanta. Now, if you are an educator, you have probably heard of this school with its outstanding academic reputation and significant social media presence. It was created by two teachers, Ron Clark and Kim Beardon, who had a revolutionary idea: to create a school where academic rigour meets compassion with an emphasis on producing graduates with strong leadership qualities. Oh, and they made it a fun learning environment too, by encouraging dance, songs and chants to complement the classroom experience and to drive home the lessons taught. The school has 120 students: 4 classes (5th, 6th, 7th, 8th) with 30 students per class.

(RCA video collaboration with Ludicrous for Super Bowl 2019)

If it sounds too good to be true, it almost is. It’s a very strange sensation because you find yourself experiencing the day almost in a dazed state, as you try to absorb all the details of this spectacular school. It’s like a fantasy come to life: a school so special that you couldn’t even imagine it in your wildest dream.

Atrium and Stairway

(Photo courtesy JeDunn.com)

Upon entering the school’s front door, you (along with hundreds of other educators, called “Guests”) are met by a live school rock band and dancing students, teachers and administrators who greet you warmly with smiles. You are whisked inside and you are immediately struck by the decor: Modeled after Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School, there are massive dragons, suits of armour, and windy staircases everywhere. The four House plaques are prominently displayed on the walls, and students are immaculately groomed in crisp, clean uniforms. The students appear to be almost too happy and charismatic to be believable, but over the course of the day, you realize that everything about this school is 100% authentic.

(Ron Clark, charismatic principal of the RCA and creator of the viral Instagram hashtag #GradingPapersChallenge)

The first session of the day is in the gym with Mr. Clark who talks with a charming southern drawl and explains the genesis and philosophy of the school while thoroughly entertaining us with hilarious anecdotes about students, teachers and parents. He is, hands down, one of the best speakers I have ever seen, often reminding us about the importance of raising the bar of expectations in our classrooms and building strong relationships with students and their families. He recommends visiting students and their families in their own homes at the beginning of the year to get a sense of their environment and to let parents know that “As a team, you and I will work together to ensure that your child will achieve success.”


(Mr. Clark’s math class. RCA teachers and students often stand on tables to make a point or talk to each other.)

When the school tour begins, the visiting teachers are split into groups and ushered into different classrooms to watch RCA teachers and students in action. It’s a smooth transition, with guides leading the way like clockwork. In every class we visited, we were invited to join the students to solve problems together and to discuss the lessons taught. Eventually it dawns on you that not only are these students delightful, polite, gracious, and kind, they are also brilliant, eloquent, articulate and self-confident. In all of the classes I observed, the teacher was merely a mediator or instigator, posing questions to the students and letting them figure out the answers on their own. The students (NOT the teacher) would explain to their classmates the solutions they came up with and their classmates were invited to critique their solutions and to add suggestions of their own. RCA students are extremely supportive of one another and constantly cheer each other on and offer encouragement. I’ve never seen anything like it. This is student-centred learning at its very best.

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(My lunch companions, Zoe and Zoey. Students at RCA have to earn their personalized jackets by being exemplary students.)

At the end of the day, all visiting teachers were invited to hurl themselves down the blue RCA slide to become “Slide Certified”, with loud music, dancing, and celebration all around. The farewell school song the students sang for us at the end brought me to tears as a small girl who introduced herself as “Halle, as in Halle Berry” clasped my hands and danced with me, truly exemplifying the warmth of the RCA family.

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(Me and my dancing partner, Halle.)

There is so much more I can write about the this unique school. But friends, it really has to be experienced to be believed. Please do not wait for a reason to go to Atlanta. Book your trip today and allow your eyes to be opened to what every student, teacher and school has the potential to be. I guarantee that you will not be disappointed and it could very easily change the way you teach forever.

(House dance competition at the end of the day.)

Watch the short documentary above about “The Amazing Shake”, a competition started by the Ron Clark Academy.  This competition places an emphasis on teaching students manners, discipline, respect, and professional conduct. Students prepare by learning the nuances of professional human interaction such as how to give a proper handshake, how to “work a room,” how to give a successful interview, and how to remain composed under pressure.

5 Tips for Live Sketchnoting

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(This post originally appeared on DitchThatTextbook.com)

Live sketchnoting (doodling while someone is talking) is the most challenging form of sketchnoting. It is stressful at first, but it gets easier over time with practice. Here are some tips for live sketchnoting:

  1. Before you begin, draw a banner, maybe a portrait of the speaker/teacher, the date and place. This will settle you down and get the creative juices flowing for sketchnoting.
  2. You don’t have to write down everything, just capture the parts that stick out for you. Capturing ten to twenty points of the talk/lesson is fine.
  3. You can add more doodles and embellishments later such as icons, containers and frames, banners, arrows, dividers and fancy fonts.
  4. Don’t stress! Sketchnoting is supposed to be fun! Don’t worry about quality of your sketchnote, just get the key points down and enjoy the learning process. Over time with practice, you will find live sketchnoting easier and easier.
  5. SHARE your sketchnotes! I enjoy live sketchnoting during keynote addresses in conferences. When I’m finished, I share my sketchnote as a gift with the speaker who is always delighted to receive it. With the Procreate app that I draw with on my iPad, I can export the sketchnote as a video from the beginning to the end of my drawing. In iMovie, I can then add music then upload to YouTube. To see a YouTube playlist of my live sketchnotes, visit bit.ly/SylLiveSketchnotes.

If you (and your students) want to get started sketchnoting right away please visit sylviaduckworth.com/sketchnotefever for 21 free sketchnoting lessons. Please share your sketchnotes on social media with the hashtag #sketchnotefever!

For more tips and tricks for getting started with sketchnoting in the classroom, please check out my new book,  “How to Sketchnote: A Step-by-Step Manual for Teachers and Students, available on Amazon. The book includes access to an online database of sketchnoting icons and many scaffolded activities to introduce sketchnoting to your students.

Available now!

Happy sketchnoting!



Sketchnoting World Tour 2019

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Dear sketchnoting friends,

After a successful 6-city 2018 Cross-Canada Tour, I am beside myself with excitement to announce my Sketchnoting World Tour 2019!

Here are the stops so far (more dates to come):

1. Wednesday, April 10, Auckland, NZ,  Orewa College. (Click here for flier)

2. Saturday, May 4, Aurora, OR,  North Marion Intermediate School.(Click here for flier)

3. June 4, Fayetteville, NC, Cumberland County Schools Educational Resource Center. (Click here for flier).

4. Saturday, Nov. 2, Hà Nội, Vietnam, Concordia International School. Click here for flier.

5. Saturday, Nov. 9, Singapore, Singapore American School. (Click here for flier)

Please click here to read more about the workshops.

Please click here to register for a workshop.

Please click here if you are interested in hosting a full-day sketchnoting workshop at no cost to your school.

Please click here if you would like to invite me to conduct a sketchnoting workshop in your community.

Please click here to be notified if a sketchnoting workshop comes to your area.

I sure hope to meet you in 2019!




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ShadowDraw App

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A few months ago I saw the coolest thing on social media: an app that teaches the user how to draw simple drawings by tracing the lines drawn by an artist.

The app is called “ShadowDraw – Learn How to Draw, a free app with in-app purchases. I was mesmerized.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when I received an email from Marty McDonough, the creator of the app,  asking if I would like to be a featured artist. I was super excited to contribute to this unique teaching resource so I submitted some Winter Holiday sketchnoting icons. Well, today my first drawing bundle is ready to purchase!


  1. In the iTunes store, download the ShadowDraw app (for iPads only).
  2. Do the opening tutorial.
  3. Tap Menu
  4. Browse tutorials
  5. Tap on “Sketchnoting for the Holidays/ Sylvia Duckworth”
  6. “Get book for $1.99USD/$2.79CAD” to learn how to draw 25 different holiday icons.
  7. On the right, tap on the icon you want to learn how to draw > Start drawing!

If you like my lessons, check out the other lessons by featured artists including Graham Shaw (yes, THAT Graham Shaw from the popular YouTube video with 23 million views)! You can read about the other artists here who have all contributed to this wonderful app with Holiday-themed drawings and more.

Have fun learning how to draw with the ShadowDraw app!

XXOO Sylvia

5 Ways to Create a Doodling Culture in your Classroom

(This is a cross post from a guest blogpost for Alice Keeler.)

5 Ways to create a doodling culture

Sketchnoting, or visual note-taking, has so many benefits for students. Many studies have proven that images are considerably more effective than words when it comes to memory retention, comprehension and motivation. There are psychological benefits as well, because sketchnoting has a calming effect similar to meditation and listening to soothing music. Sketchnoting also allows students to see the bigger picture in the concepts they are studying, to make connections in their learning, and to display their learning process.

Before you begin sketchnoting in class, however, it is extremely important that you set up a doodling culture so that your students understand that IT’S OKAY TO DOODLE!

This is very counterintuitive for most teachers who feel that in order for the student to truly absorb the material being taught, they have to be looking at the teacher. This is a mindset that is very difficult to get over for teachers and for students, but with consistent reminders that it’s okay, sketchnoting will soon become a natural and normal part of your daily class routine.

Here are 5 good tips to create a sketchnoting or doodling culture in your classroom:

  1. Remind your students over and over again that it’s okay to sketchnote in class as a form of note-taking, planning, processing information, and keeping engaged in class.
  2. Provide paper/pen/pencils/notebooks/digital devices for sketchnoting.
  3. Model sketchnoting yourself by doodling with the students and displaying your sketchnotes.
  4. Spend 5 minutes a day with your students to focus on building their visual vocabulary. Visit the #SKETCHNOTEFEVER resource page for 21 free video lessons.
  5. Encourage your students to share their sketchnotes. Create a space in your classroom/class website to allow students to do this. Celebrate their amazing progress as the school year goes on!

For more tips and tricks for getting started with sketchnoting in the classroom, check out my new book, “How to Sketchnote: A Step-by-Step Manual for Teachers and Students”.Available now!Happy sketchnoting!

XXOO Sylvia


All 21 #SKETCHNOTEFEVER lessons!


At the beginning of the week when the #SKETCHNOTEFEVER lessons were coming to an end, I challenged participants to create video montages of all 21 lessons that they completed. I loved the variety of mediums they used. Check it out!

1. Jennifer Leban (@mrsleban)

Twitter video

2. Alexis Snider (alexissnider15)

Adobe Spark Video

3. Anette LeFave (@mrslefave)

Smilebox video

4. Sarah Fromhold (@sew1080)


5. Tiffany Eliot (@kindertechtiff)

Instagram video

6. Amber Grohs (@amber_grohs)

Twitter video

7. Merri Lea De Witt (@dewit_teachn)

Book Creator

8. Mandi Tolen (@mandiTolenEDU)

Twitter video

9. Kimberley Kidd (@MrsKKidd)

Twitter video (Part 1)

Twitter video (Part 2)

10. Kimberly Cantrell (@mskcantrell96)

Twitter video

11. Katie Cahill (@kcahill79)

Twitter video

12. Margaret Sisler (@techymargaret)

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(All 21 lessons on one image, made with a yoga laptop/tablet,  windows 10 and

13. Traci Stubenrauch (@tpstube)

YouTube video

14. Courtney Adams (@cadamslpms)

Apple Clips

15. James Allen (@TLJamesA)

Twitter video

16. Kristi Daws (@kristi_daws)

Twitter video

17. Abbey Thomas (@mrstechpig)

Twitter video

18. Juli Chang (@juli_sassy2ndgr)

Apple Clips

19. Monica Roveri (@monica_roveri)

Twitter video

All participants received a certificate of achievement for completing all 21 lessons:


Thank you to everyone who participated in this challenge. If I didn’t see your entry, or forgot to include it above, please DM me on Twitter (or email me) and I will add yours right away! Also please contact me if you completed all 21 lessons so that I can send you a certificate.

And the winner of the draw to win a copy of “How to Sketchnote” is….

A very special shout out to Lisa Stevens, from the U.K., who wrote a blogpost  and was a very enthusiastic #SKETCHNOTEFEVER participant, having completed all 21 lessons as well!

A reminder to all readers that even though the #SKETCHNOTEFEVER campaign is officially over, I do hope that everyone will continue to post their sketchnotes using the hashtag so that we can celebrate everyone’s creations.

Happy sketchnoting!




As the 3 week launch campaign of “How to Sketchnote: A Step-by-Step Manual for Teachers and Students” draws to a close, I am still incredulous at the level of participation of teachers, students, and families from all around the world!

People were tweeting and posting on Instagram and Facebook every day. Here are just a few examples:

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Congratulations to three #SKETCHNOTEFEVER participants who won a copy of my book after a random draw:

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Week 1: Ashley Sonkin

Week 2: Merri Lea DeWit

Week 3: Manuel Herrera

We have ONE MORE DRAW: Create a video or montage of ALL 21 #SKETCHNOTEFEVER lessons that you completed for another chance to win a copy of my book! The winner of this bonus draw will be picked on Friday, Nov. 16, so make sure to submit your videos/montages before then on social media with the hashtag #SKETCHNOTEFEVER!


After what seems like an excruciatingly long wait,  my book will finally be released tomorrow (Nov. 13) and it is my sincerest hope that the #SKETCHNOTEFEVER community will continue to post their #sketchnoting journey, with or without the  #SKETCHNOTEFEVER lessons! To continue the learning, please consider purchasing my book which has tons of lesson ideas and scaffolded activities to introduce sketchnoting, as well as access to a members-only databank of close to 300 sketchnoting icons.

If you haven’t ordered the book yet, it’s not too late to take advantage of the early order bonuses which will still be available until Nov. 20:


  1. Order the book before or on November 13 and you will receive 3 bonus posters plus a special VIP invitation to a live 1 hour webinar with me.
  2. Buy the book November 13 – 20 and you will receive the 3 bonus posters.
  3. Buy 20 or more copies and you will receive the three bonus posters above, PLUS a private 30 minute webinar with me.

Once you have purchased the book, please email me at sduckworth100@gmail.com to provide your proof of purchase and to receive the bonus features.

Happy sketchnoting!