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by • January 10, 2013 • UncategorizedComments (0)820

Teaching Students How to Make Notes

Note:  Since first posting this, I have received feedback and suggestions via twitter which I’ve now included. It makes me pause once again to appreciate the power of social media to provide a forum for meaningful feedback that will then benefit our students. Never before would I have had a journalist review my teaching practice and make suggestions based on how she approaches her work. How cool is that?

In grade 6 we have begun our unit on First Nations. Underlying this are: my professional learning focus, our junior division focus which is writing, and our SIP goal which is developing self-assessment skills in our students.

We began the unit by speculating on how humans first came to North America. Two students knew about the Asia-Alaska Land Bridge Theory; a few wild ideas were proposed, but most students could not even begin to imagine how North America became inhabited.

We then watched the first 3 episodes of Ice Age Columbus which explains the North Atlantic crossing that took place 5 thousand years earlier than the Bering crossing. After viewing and discussing the episodes, I introduced the skill of note taking.

This is a good tool to assess where students are at in their ability to independently make useful notes.

The next day, we began our lesson with a model of point form or jot notes using the same organizer.

The students could see right away the value in making notes in this way.
“it’s easier to understand”
“you’ve only got the important words, all the extra words are left out.”
“highlighting shows what’s important”

The model was then glued to the anchor chart for future reference.

Our next step was learning to take notes from a text. This began with a return to reading strategies.
What do productive readers do before they begin reading?
What do productive readers do while reading?
What do productive readers do after reading?

Spending time discussing purpose and activating prior knowledge is key to good reading skills. Consciously reminding students and providing time to do this will lead to better comprehension of as well as critical thinking about the texts they read.

Once we had discussed our schema, students worked individually or in partners to read and annotate a page from our history text on the topic of  origin theories.  I provided a paper version as well as the textbook.

Below are examples of how students annotated.

From the above examples it becomes very clear who is asking questions while reading, who is thinking critically about the text, who is using the diagrams and glossary to enhance understanding and who can identify key points in the text.

What I like about this text is that some of the information is vague or out of date which prompted students to ask questions about evidence and proof.  Many noticed that the dates in the text are different from those mentioned in the film.  For critical thinking to occur, having students work with two different texts or sources at the same time will lead to better thinking. (The Strategic Teacher)

This is as far as we’ve gotten.  I did, however, seek feedback from a colleague about this lesson.  Jaqui Swartz teaches science and has a visual arts background. She suggested that we add the ideas of  highlighting specific unit or subject vocabulary to the anchor chart as well as the importance of making relevant comments and questions when annotating text.  She also emphasized the importance of creating visual anchors when making point-form notes.  Drawing pictures and adding graphics will aid in recall. Next week she will be teaching reading and note taking skills in science and will use these anchor charts to aid in the transfer of knowledge and skills between subjects.

In my class students will return to this topic on Monday and use their annotated texts to create notes. I will work with flexible groups to address gaps in their understanding, answer questions and point out how to get more out of their reading. We will then co-create Success Criteria for note-taking.

January 11: Journalist, Shawna Richer, saw this post and noted that this is how journalists approach their work. She also pointed out that we need to remember to document the source of the information when making notes, so we will add this to our anchor chart and Success Criteria.

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