Should students be required to take notes?

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by gdmckav, Jun 20, 2010.

  1. gdmckav

    gdmckav Rookie

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    Jun 20, 2010

    I am looking for some feedback on an issue I have struggled with for the last two years. It is regarding the question of whether students should be required to take notes during a lecture. I teach high school Social Studies on a 85-min. block schedule. I have found that my students depend on more of teacher-centered environment for at least half of the block in order for me to explain the content for the day. I then try to mix up the day's lessons with some sort of engaging student-centered activity.

    During the first half, when I am explaining the content, I want students to write down information from lecture but they resist doing so because they do not have an incentive to do so. This past school year, I attached a participation grade to "taking notes" and docked points for the week if they did not have any notes at the end of the week when I checked. (I allowed notes to be optional for students who have an "A" in the class.) This turned out to work in the beginning but soon turned into students obsessing over points/grade rather than learning the content.

    So I am looking for ideas on how anyone else does lecture, handles note-taking, etc.?
     
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  3. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    What do they actually DO with the notes?

    I wouldn't want to take notes just for the sake of saying I'd taken notes either. And if I am the type of person who remembers things well when I hear them, I would also hate having to take notes. And if there are other opportunities to learn the material, such as during the activity later in the class, many could probably do better with that than with taking notes.

    If you want students to take notes, they need a reason to take them other than "you're getting a grade for it".
     
  4. SciTeacherNY

    SciTeacherNY Companion

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    I do two things:

    1. Bi-weekly Notebook Checks

    2. Guided Note Sheets. I convert my PowerPoint notes into a word file. I leave the headings (titles) for each slide and then have lines for the information I want them to write. I find this to be especially useful for my students in 9th grade. They are still writing 95% of the notes, but there is a template.
     
  5. Unbeknownst

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    First of all, should notes be required?

    Yes. And they are. It is one of the required standards in my state.

    Secondly, you may be spending too much time with your "teacher-centered" activities. Hear me out.

    Everyone (especially students in school) begin to reach cognitive overload after the third concept.

    If you're spending 42 1/2 minutes (half of the 85 hour block) talking, then I have to assume that you're faaaaaar exceeding the amount of concepts students can digest in one sitting.

    If you break down your 85 minute block schedule into 5-10 minute increments, you should be able to increase the efficiency in which your students learn the concepts.

    Consequently, listing ONE objective and teaching it in FIVE minutes gives the students betters clues on what to take notes on. This should help alleviate some of the note-taking problems you're having in your classroom.
     
  6. Brendan

    Brendan Fanatic

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    42 minutes straight lecture is way to long. I lecture, but it's never for more than 15-20 minutes and I always include videos, games, pictures, discussion questions, and anything else I can use to peak their interest. Always try and illicit student response, so they get something out of your lectures!
     
  7. Loomistrout

    Loomistrout Devotee

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    If one subscribes to the notion the more modalities included in direct instruction (see-say-do-teach) the more likely learning will be maximized perhaps notes are one part (do?).

    "There is no reason in the world a teacher should work him/herself to death while the students sit back and watch. An effective instructor works the students to death while he/she sits back and watches." -FJ
     
  8. Reality Check

    Reality Check Habitué

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    Jun 20, 2010

    Should they be required to take notes? Yes.

    However, if you're in a situation like I am, and you have to use someone else's classroom every class, it can be tricky. I run into a lot of, "You can't erase the boards, I need that for my next class."
     
  9. HMM

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  10. MrsC

    MrsC Multitudinous

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    I don't teach high school, so won't offer an opinion. However, I have a request--if you are requiring your students to take notes, please be sure to teach them this skill and be very clear as to your expectations.
     
  11. Soccer Dad

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    Jun 22, 2010

    I don't require them to take notes unless their grade slips below an 85. I hated taking notes when I was in high school because I found that a lot of my teachers just had me writing useless knowledge down that I already had memorized... however, I do assign note-taking homework assignments. I stress the importance of finding a note-taking system that works best for each person individually. For me, that's the Cornell system. But if I'm learning science, then I, personally, learn best with flow diagrams and visual stuff.

    I do have some required lectures that I have them take notes on. Here, I verbally speak the notes and they must write down what they feel is important and then go home and supplement the notes in a different color pen. I then collect the notes and see if they're learning how to take notes when it's a strictly verbal lecture with no PowerPoint. I do this several times a year.

    As for a day-to-day basis, it's their choice if they're going to take notes or not. I stress common sense: if you know what the Crusades were, don't write down the identification and background info. I give. However, if you don't recall who Charles Martel was, then write that down or at least make a note for you to read about him when you go home.

    I'm big on teaching the skills for college. I really wish I had teachers like those of today. I can honestly remember sitting in class and copying word for word the notes off the board and then being quizzed the next day. I was in for a rude awakening my freshman year of college.

    I also teach them the importance of highlighting, annotating, underlining, etc. It seems like easy stuff, but kids ALWAYS over-highlight!
     
  12. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    I remember having a few teachers like that myself in high school. What do you do differently to teach your students good note-taking skills?

    Should high school students be required to take notes? I would say yes (even if not required by state standards) because they will definitely be required to take notes in college. They'll also have plenty of classes that are 45+ minutes of lecture, so the sooner they learn to stay focused on long lectures and take effective notes, the better. Once they get to college, the profs won't care if they've learned good note-taking skills or not.

    I think requiring students to take notes in high school and teaching them how to take notes is a good idea. It will make them better prepared for the classes they will have in college.
     
  13. JackTrader

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    Jun 22, 2010

    At the high school where I've subbed most often, they require students to use Cornell or STAR notes formats. It's a skill that helps students pick out the main ideas better.
     
  14. Soccer Dad

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    We only have 40 minute periods so I like to do 25 minutes teaching a topic and 15 minutes reflecting on it with some type of activity. This hardly ever works out and usually becomes 1 full period of notes followed by the activity the next day.

    My problem with requiring notes is that they copy the way I present the notes word for word in my format on the overhead sheets/PowerPoint. Therefore, I lean them off of written notes for auditory notes... which they can use their own formatting and write what they need to write. I then collect the notes and grade them on their effort--not on content because I don't know what they remember just from their hw and what they needed to write down.

    Of course, I always get students that say they know it all so then I tell them they can take the quiz right then and there and suddenly they start taking notes....
     
  15. TechnoMage

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    Only to Pass

    I love the Smartboard!!! If I write it then it is important. I let the students know what needs to be written in their notes. Subtle hints like "write this down", "you need to know this", "you will need this". Other things like diagrams I give out as a hand out and give them highlighters to copy onto them. Keeps them awake and engaged. LATER we have "open notebook" tests (new learning). Much later we have open notebook tests (review). Once again I say, really love my Smartboard!!!:wub:
    Techn:cool:Mage
     
  16. onestepcloser

    onestepcloser Companion

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    Great question gdmckav! I was actually thinking about this recently too. When I was in high school I had a teacher who left whether we took notes during his lectures up to his. I distinctly remember there was one student in the class who never took notes, just listened while the teacher lectured. The teacher pointed this out one day when talking about how students learn differently/organize themselves differently (since the student didn't take notes and still managed to do decently in the class; he wasn't a high achiever by any means, but was doing alright in the class). This teacher did not require students to take notes.

    I think my instinct would be to urge the student to write down what we're talking about, but after thinking about my experience with the aforementioned teacher, I'm not sure if this is the best approach. Perhaps the grade level/subject level of the course makes a difference too. The course I just mentioned was a Grade 12 University-prep history course. I think with younger students (Grade 9/10) I may be more inclined to insist on notetaking and showing students the purpose of taking notes to help them get into good habits.

    I'm interested in reading more of your responses and thoughts, as I am a new teacher.
     
  17. onestepcloser

    onestepcloser Companion

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    I really like this approach. The teacher I mentioned above emphasized the importance of developing good note-taking skills as well. It definitely helped come university.
     
  18. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    I agree that age and content make a difference. I plan to teach middle school math. While there are plenty of rules and formulas to remember, most kids can learn these through repetition and practice (homework). My CT gave very few notes, but DID require the students to write down certain rules and/or formulas they would use all year (such as the rules for intergers). So the note-taking in my ST class was minimal.

    At the end of my ST, I had to observe 3 other teachers. One of these not only required students to use "foldables" for each chapter, but also took them up for a grade at the end of the unit.

    Some students are can learn things just by observing and listening. I always had a good memory and rarely had to take notes in Jr. high or high school, but even with that skill, I know that I learn things more thoroughly if I take the time to write them down.
     
  19. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    As a math teacher, it's possiblet that my frame of reference is different-- it's hard to participate in a math class if you don't write anything down.

    My notes are good.

    They contain the process for solving each step of the problem...we work on those notes together and they're in the kids' words (with an occasional bit of re-phrasing on my part.) We probably spend 5 or 6 minutes on that per period. The rest of the class is spent on examples. The examples go from easy to medium to hard. In the middle of a problem I frequently urge my kids to "explain to yourselves" why we did a particular thing. I've been at this long enough to know where the trouble spots are and where the likely mistakes occur.

    In my class, you take notes.

    And in 2 weeks, or six months, or a year, when you need to remember how and why we solved a particular problem a particular way, those notes will help you.

    As teachers, we're responsible for more than simply relaying information. We need to teach our kids what they need to do for their own good. So we have fire drills, just in case. We expect them to treat each other with respect, because that's how civilized people behave. And we expect them to take notes, to fully be a part of the class that we're in.

    Kids don't always know yet what kind of learners they are. Take, as an example, the kids who cram for a test and to well, then think they've learned the material. But put those same questions on a pop quiz, or an end of the year Final exam, and that "knowlege" is gone. We've got to give our kids the tools for long term learning, not short term test-taking. Part of that is the notes themselves-- good notes that our kids can come back to.

    So just any notes?? No. But MY notes?? You bet your life!

    In my classes, you take notes. You show work on tests-- same idea. No questions, no arguments.
     
  20. onestepcloser

    onestepcloser Companion

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    How do you handle a student who isn't taking notes?

    When I was student teaching, I didn't have any issues with this (everyone took down the notes they were supposed to), but in the future if I have a student who refuses to take notes or who doesn't hold onto their notes... how would you address that?
     
  21. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Honestly, it's one of two things:

    Either the kid doesn't see them as necessary, or it's about who's in control.

    So I'll explain why the notes are important.

    If he still refuses to pick up a pen, it's now a disciplinary issue, not an academic one.

    As to holding onto notes, that's not an issue I can handle. They may be home, perfectly filed in his bedroom or in a pile at the bottom of his locker; I have no way of knowing. So that's not a battle I fight.

    But when you're in my class you take notes.
     
  22. chemteach55

    chemteach55 Connoisseur

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    I am teaching Physics so like Alice, my frame of reference is slightly different. I give "notes" for no more than 10-15 minutes at a time. Most of my notes are either related to the history of science, definitions of new vocabulary, or steps in problem solving. No one is required to write this down and it is available on my website for them to download. This type of stuff is on PowerPoint. They are required to do any written problem solving exercises. These are practice problems that they are given one by one and work on it with their partner and then we go over it as a class. After this they get individual practice problems for homework. They will start this in class and then we will go over answers at the next class period.
     
  23. chemteach55

    chemteach55 Connoisseur

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    If I have a student not taking notes (or doing any classwork assignment), then I usually observe them a few minutes because sometimes they do not feel well. If they seem fine, then I will usually walk by their desk and they will normally start working. If they continue to not work or stop again, then it is a detention. Sometimes I have them do the lunch detention in my room but our disciplinarian has both before school and lunch detentions that any teacher can send in any student.
     
  24. MissCeliaB

    MissCeliaB Aficionado

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    Chemteach, my husband is starting out teaching physics next year (after teaching geometry for the last five years) so any tips or resources you know of, I'm sure he would appreciate.
     
  25. chemteach55

    chemteach55 Connoisseur

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    MissCelia--If you want to PM me an e-mail, I will send you copies of what I do. Most follows Louisiana curriculum but some goes off topic a little because I am private school.
     
  26. onestepcloser

    onestepcloser Companion

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    Thanks Alice! I like that you distinguish between it being an academic issue or a disciplinary issue. Your responses are always so helpful. As a new teacher, I appreciate your input and guidance.

    Thank you for your input. :)
     
  27. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    You're welcome.

    Actually, the dean of my school taught that lesson. She's a friend and we've been working together for almost 30 years.

    There's a big difference in my school between the two issues. So, for example, a kid whose cell phone goes off during an exam will receive 5 demerits for the phone. But if he doesn't get the chance to answer it, his grade won't be effected since it didn't give him the ability to cheat on the exam.
     
  28. OedipaMaas

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    I'd like to add my perspective from the student side of things. My high school teachers required note-taking. Particularly in history and biology, we were required to take down notes in outline form during lectures of 40 minutes or more. My teachers showed us how we should take notes and, in the beginning of the year, gave brief verbal feedback as to how on track our notes looked. I'm grateful that I learned to take notes from a lecture during high school because it put me at a huge advantage when I got to college. Students who came in thinking taking notes meant just copying down what was on the board, well, they got a nasty surprise on their first rounds of tests and essays freshmen year.
     
  29. Unbeknownst

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    Forty minutes of lecture? I'd rather slit my wrists! (thanks Alice!)

    Also, I honestly never learned how to take notes. They were so horrible and messy and kept me distracted from what the professor was actually saying.

    I remember the moment when I forcibly put down my pencil and paper and just listened. After actively listening, I would just google the concepts I learned in class to put them in a clearer perspective. I regularly got As on all my tests.

    Anyway, I don't think you learn anything with such long lectures. The low level kids faze out, and the higher level kids just do a bunch of memorizing.

    But you're right in that it prepares you for college. My degree was just one big long memorization feat.
     
  30. HMM

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    Well that's sad.
     
  31. Unbeknownst

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    Agreed.
     
  32. specialeduc8tor

    specialeduc8tor Rookie

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    I struggle with whether to give guided notes or take notes at all, especially in my special education high school class. Most students have it in their IEP, but when college comes, they don't know how to take notes.

    I think I'm going to try something that was mentioned earlier on about printing powerpoint outlines with room for notes in margins to try to lead students into taking their own notes. I also thought I'd try "notetaking" with activities instead of lecture. For example, usually I give guided notes, then do an activity with it. Instead, I'm going to try to use the activity as the notes.

    ***most of the notes end up in the trash or go unused anyway - I teach in an inner-city school - most students can't read above a 5th grade level
     
  33. Special-t

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    Jul 23, 2010

    I incorporate note taking activities into units then let the kids use them in open-note tests.

    I let them know that if I write something on the board that it's important, but if they already know something well enough to answer correctly on a test - don't write it down.
     
  34. Histo_AC

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    As a student, I think note taking is important, mostly because I know that I won't remember all the important things when it comes down to doing homework or studying for test. I am not a big note studier, but it does help to have something to look back on if I'm confused. So I take notes, even though it sometimes isn't that convient, or it feels like a waste of time. So I think notes are important, even if students complain, I bet they are thankful that they took notes after they are doing a homework assignment on something they may have forgotten how to do, or are a little fuzzy about.
     
  35. Miz_Aich

    Miz_Aich Rookie

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    Jul 24, 2010

    If the majority of your students are assumed to be college bound they should not only be taught how to take notes, but also how to use them. If you want to have students take notes that are really effective, you might look into Cornell Notes.

    I have used Cornell Notes with my secondary classes and I start with giving students the headings/topics (on the left side of the notes) and then guiding students with what they need to do to study the notes. As they become more comfortable with the notetaking process, they are given less direction. Yes, it takes a few class periods to get them to understand how to take and use their notes, but the benefits from students knowing how to USE the notes they take are great... I don't REQUIRE students to take notes, but once they learn Cornell notetaking, most do it without prompting because they know how helpful they are.
     
  36. Soccer Dad

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    Jul 24, 2010

    :agreed:
     

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