Notes... Empowering Students' Note Taking

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In my previous post, "Notes... What are they good for?" I highlighted this take home message:
  1. Direct instruction is necessary. But should occur rarely.
  2. Notes are necessary. But should occur rarely.
  3. Content should be delivered in a variety of ways (e.g., lecture, video, text, web)
  4. Notes should be handwritten.
  5. Notes formatting should not be dictated by the teacher.
But... any classroom teacher knows that this ideal is easier said than done.

If I told my freshmen, "Just take notes on what I say. Write down the important things, and map it out how you want." They would freak. Well, some would freak. Others would just smile and nod, then WRITE DOWN NOTHING. Alas.

How do you teach students to take good notes?

1. Scaffold them

Give them templates and formats that they can use over and over again, so ultimately they learn what is important to write down, they are confident and empowered that they know how to do this, and they have some structures for doing so. In my first year Spanish classes, I often use guided notes like these for teaching grammar.

Check out: Grammar Made Easy Preterite -er and -ir (freebie)

2. Give LOTS of examples

I always give an -ar, -er, -ir verb example, and then lots of practice examples too. Like this...

Check out: Grammar Made Easy: Los mandatos informales

3. Incorporate mixed media, if possible.

For example, when teaching irregular commands, after giving basic notes, I have students listen to this song and then have them take their own notes off of the song, but scaffolded by the guided notes. This keeps them on their toes, rather than just regurgitating what the teacher says or copying what (s)he writes.
Check out: Grammar Made Easy: Los mandatos informales

Would love to hear your ideas too... Leave a comment if you like!


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