Friday, July 28, 2006

Note Taking / Using Your Notes

I'm batting an idea around my head about actually teaching "note using" skills this year in all my classes. It seems to me that a majority (or at least too many to be comfortable) of my students don't know how to use their notes once they get home. They seem to be just humoring me by "taking notes" and then don't really see the point of them later (or their book for that matter).

I've not fleshed everything out completely yet (all ideas are welcome), but here's what I've come up with so far. Every so often during a class (10 minutes? 5 minutes?), I'll pause the class and ask them to quickly scan over what they've written and then put a noticeable star or mark near things that they need clarification on or more time to think on. Time seems to be in short demand in class, and there are those students who don't need the extra time, so I don't know if I'll spend too much time in class going over every concern. I also want them to become self sufficient and confident in their skills of figuring things out on their own, so maybe I won't address concerns.

Then I'll discuss or teach them how to use their notes when they're at home doing homework. ... Maybe a poster up in class (and give them a copy) as a constant reminder:

"How to do homework"
1. scan over class notes to refresh your memory
2. spend time figuring out the starred/confusing sections (ponder / look in book / call a friend / go on line)
3. start your homework (with header: page #, problem #s, date, topic(?)). attempt every problem.
4. for those you do not know how to do, make a start / look for examples in book/notes, write down specific reasons you got stuck
5. in class as we are going over answers, IN A DIFFERENT COLOR, put a check by correct answers, indicate wrong problems and write down the answer. Make sure to ask someone (me / groupmate / friend) for help on the ones you didn't understand.
6. later on make sure you go over incorrect ones and find out how to do it (friend / notes / book)

Hopefully, this will grab some extra students and make them more successful. I think when I check homework, their points will be based on: attempt, in class corrections, header.


  1. I'm going to try having students take turns providing a summary of what happened in class each day based on this model:

    Mr. Kuropatwa calls this "scribing". What his students did looks interesting. I found out about this use of blogging by listening to this podcast.

    Any opportunity to get students to review what happened in their math class can't hurt.

  2. Anonymous10:28 PM

    I'm thinking about really hitting the notes hard too. I've come up with two things that I'm thinking about instituing in my class:

    1. Each day (on a piece of paper with squares premade to be turned in at the end of a week or 5 days or whatever) each student should summarize what class was about. I will check these to make sure they are doing it.

    2. Having a test review assignment that will be very structured at the beginning of the year and less so as the year goes on. It will require going over notes taken (or the book at the vary least) to write definitions, types of problems covered, etc. I also want them to start making predictions about what I would put on the test to help them do that on their own. I know I used to do that a lot in high school and it really helped me focus on everything I needed to know.

    If you want more specifics on either I have them layed out a bit more and would be happy to share.


  3. Anonymous8:33 AM

    Those sound like helpful-for-the-students ideas. Thanks for sharing.

    I'll have to think how I'd manage a review blog. Not all my students have easy computer access, so I'd have to work out those details on grading or not ... maybe it'd just be optional for those with a computer.

    I also like the structured review assignments and the weaning off aspect. I do find that most do not use outside time to study. I did something similar last year, but only for the end of the year test. I think I'll start earlier this year.

    Ms. Cookie

  4. I posted about this topic too, because it is endlessly frustrating! I think students have problems with knowing how to organize their notes, and seeing the value in accessing them later on. This summer, I used a 3-column template (lesson name and essential question at the top, then columns for concepts, examples, and background information). I think this helped both me and them organize the information in the class. I also broke down their binders conceptually, instead of what I used to do (sections for homework, tests, notes, etc.), with a summary sheet for each section at the front. The idea here is to make the notes easier to find - thus, more likely to be used. It could also help students see the links between related topics.

    I would like to incorporate more in-class work as you suggested (reviewing what has been written as we go; why did we put those notes in that section?; highlight what you don't understand, etc.), as well as more assessment of their notes (i.e. find your notes on X, answer this question, you have 3 minutes).

    I am currently trying to come up with a good conceptual structure for Algebra 2.

  5. Anonymous1:23 PM

    Thanks for those useful ideas. Maybe I'll get some colored paper for them to separate each section, and they can write their summaries on that sheet. The colors will make it easier to find.

    And the "quizzing" them on their notes to make them see how to refer back to them - another good thing to try.

    I'll have to put all these ideas somewhere prominent, so that they don't get lost in the school year shuffle. Thanks for sharing.

    Ms. Cookie