What is a smash doodle and how can you use them in language classes?

Smash Doodle

My sister in law is a lot trendier than I am. She finds nifty projects on Pinterest all the time and actually does them. Who does that? Last Christmas, she introduced me to Smash Books. She had recently moved to Maryland to take a job teaching English, and she was showing me the beginnings of her Smash Book from her first few months away from good ol’ CNY. A Smash Book is a fast, trendy way to scrapbook–scrapbooking for the 20-something, or the almost-20-something, or the hipster. Something like that.


CC 2009 Matthew Oliphant flickr.com

Anyway, Smash Books came to mind today as I was reading Vida y muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha, another novel from Fluency Matters. It’s different than any of the other popular readers in that the chapters are extremely short, and each one recounts one moment or memory from the fictitious narrator’s life. It feels like you’re reading the transcript of an Indie film–flashbacks that fade in and out, mapping the life of the hero. The novel is about MS-13; a salvadoreño gang that began in L.A. Gang tattoos, gang territory marked by graffiti, and hidden emotions are deeply embedded in the narrator’s life. Each chapter is so short (just 3-4 pages) that it seems laborious to complete the standard post-reading activities with students. And the content is so serious, so personal, and so deep that it begs for students to enter into the narrator’s world. A Smash Book meets Doodle Notes would be perfect for this novel!

Students could make it as elaborate as they want. If it were me, overachieving student that I was, I imagine the page for Chapter 2 containing a “blood-stained” receipt from a grocery store, a (fake) newspaper article about the events of “my” mom’s death, a picture of my mom (well, one of a lady that I would have found online that looked the part), phrases like “Never forget” and “Gone forever”, and a hand-sketched scene of my mom lying dead on the pavement. It could be similar to the image on this post–a comic strip with a reflection and an action list of how the main character is going to move forward. You could give students time to “smash doodle” in a journal after reading each chapter–creating a diary as though they were the main character–and/or you could dedicate one day a week to putting together more elaborate smash books (generating news articles using the page linked above, finding images to print, taping and pasting in things that they’ve brought in from home). This could be done for homework, too, if your classes have homework.

Note: As teachers have played around with Smash Books, the general consensus is that doing one entry per chapter of a novel is too much. Maybe one per three-five chapters, or a few entries summarizing the book, or students could choose 2 key moments that they felt connected to from the novel.

Outside of reading novels, Smash Books and Doodle Notes are great tools to work into your classes. There are tons of ideas on Pinterest and other sites for special themed pages–like this one that would work great when you’re targeting the present progressive or this one in a food unit for students to describe what they crave in different circumstances.

What possibilities do you see for Smash Books or Doodle Notes?

15 thoughts on “Smash Doodle

  1. Elizabeth Hoving says:

    Hi Martina,

    I tried the smash doodle assignment this year with La Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha. It was awesome. It was probably one of the best assignments that I have ever given. The students were so artistic and creative, and most of them loved this assignment. Thanks so much for the great idea. The final product is truly amazing.

  2. Emily says:

    How do the students then present their Smash Doodle? I assigned a chapter to a pair of students, and they each made their own, but worked together.

Leave a Reply