Engaging Students in Note Taking  

January 19, 2012

According to Marzano's 9 Strategies, Note Taking is #2 in effectiveness. So naturally, we as teachers want students taking notes over materials we cover in class. Have you taught them how to take notes? Have you taught them what to do with the notes once they have jotted allthose gems down on paper? This is not a skill that we are born with which I think we overlook often with students because typically, teachers are good note takers.

Here are five engaging activities that you can do with students to either take notes or review the notes they have taken.

1. Use comic strips for both reviewing and summarizing notes! Many students are visual learners so having them create visuals for their own learning is a great way for them to review. "In four comic frames or less, summarize Plate Tectonics." "Tell a comic story using 10 of the 25 vocabulary words from this unit." These particular ideas can be done on paper or digitally. You will find there are many web sites for building comic strips out there. Here are four different sites you might use:

Super Hero Squad Create Your Own Comic
Read Write Think Comic Creator
Make Beliefs Comic Builder
Strip Generator

2. Use those graphic organizers! Ed Helper has a great list of graphic organizers to use with students! Remember that Marzano’s #1 strategy for learning is to look at Similarities and Differences. Have students do some comparing and contrasting with notes using a simple Venn Diagram. You will also find many graphic organizers built into the software for your interactive whiteboards like Venn Diagrams, tables, and KWL Charts.

3. Use a feedback system whether it is clickers, sticky notes on the wall, or using a web site such as Stixy! Use the stickies to have students do a KWL chart for each unit. Ask students often to jot down an understanding about the material. Ask them a “what-if” question about the material. This gets them applying the new knowledge. “What if we had volcanoes in Nebraska? What characteristics would they have and why do you think that?”

4. Train the class as Google Jockeys and Class Note Takers! Each day of lecture assign one student to be the Google Jockey which is someone that is ready to do Google searches at anytime. This could even be expanded into several jobs: someone to search for images on the topic at hand, someone to search for more, quality/scholarly materials on the topic, and possibly a biographer, someone researching the lives of those involved in the topic. A class note taker would be the official notes for that lecture to be shared with all the students at the end of class. For this job, it is crucial for the teacher to make time at the end of the class period, together with the class, to critically review those notes and to add or change anything the class feels was missed. This demonstrates to the students to review the notes as well as remember what was said in class.

5. Create a backchannel to empower students to ask questions! Have you ever gone to a workshop and sat by a friend and during that time you made comments, made a connection to something that was said, or asked questions of each other? Or in Kindergarten when the teacher brought up a new topic and everyone’s hands shot up because they have a story to tell? Today’s Meet is a simple web site just for such activity. Next time you watch a video or have a formal lecture with students, set up a backchannel and use it to gather questions, have the students add links or images to what they are already learning, or maybe even have them make connections to other knowledge they may have. Keep in mind, this is not something you can assume students instinctively know how to use APPROPRIATELY in class. Pre-teach and PARTICIPATE! Let them know how they need to use the backchannel and how everyone will see what is posted. Also be a part of the chat that is going on. It lets you know when you might need to pause the video or reteach a concept. Allowing students to add their voices to the unit gives them buy in and ties them to the materials!