Teaching note-taking skills is a very important skill to actively teach to our students. I have to imagine that I am not the only teacher to have found herself in the position of meeting students who do not know how to take good notes. Having taught both middle and high school, I know too well that curriculums are very full at all levels and that the pressures of such full curriculums sometimes mean teachers have to make hard choices about which things are focused on and stressed.
Regardless of these full curriculum requirements, students have to be taught note-taking skills. Being able to read a text, pull out the important details, and record them for future use is invaluable. Today’s blog post is written by Rebecca Gettelman who is a middle and high school teacher from the Midwest. She has been teaching for over eleven years.
Here are three basic tips for teaching note-taking.
Tip #1: Variety Is the Spice of Life
When you teach note-taking, be sure to introduce a wide variety of different methods. These methods can range from copying point form notes off the whiteboard, outlining, two-column notes, illustrated note taking and highlighting. Don’t forget to expose students to graphic organizers, web diagrams and K-W-L charts. Note taking is not one-size-fits-all.
Additionally, don’t try to teach all these methods at once or cram them all into a very short period, or you will have some very confused students—and you’ll also have students that are not any good at any of the forms of note-taking because they had almost no time to practice each one. By teaching a new form of note taking approximately every two weeks and then enforcing this form’s use during that time, the students had time to internalize and become proficient at each form.
Tip #2: Modeling and Scaffolding: The Architecture of Teaching
When you first start to teach a new form of note taking, you must model it for students. It is all well and good to explain what you want students to do and even show a couple of examples, but without seeing it in practice multiple times, most students are lost. I find that beginning by showing students exactly what I want them to write and then slowly scaffolding further instruction until students are taking notes in the new form on their own is very effective.
Tip #3: Student Choice
Eventually, your students will have learned all the different forms of note-taking that you plan to teach. At this point, it is important to give them choice to and find the form or forms that fit them best. Every student is different. One form is not going to be best for every person in your class. As long as you are enforcing what they have to do, your students will never find their own style. Giving your students the opportunity and freedom to experiment, practice, and even develop their own variations is imperative.
All too often students are left to figure out most or all of their note-taking skills on their own. And all too often students reach higher grades without developing these critical skills. Try to incorporate note-taking lessons into your curriculum to set up your student for success.