When can students take notes without help?

Discussion in 'Middle School / Junior High' started by porque_pig, Aug 22, 2011.

  1. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    Aug 22, 2011

    I am in my second week as a middle school teacher. I'm LOVING my new job, but because I have no prior experience with this age group, I was unprepared for some of the difficulties my students have with note-taking. I've found that my students will NOT write so much as a word in their notes unless I say, "Take out your binders, open to the 'Class notes' section, title the notes ####, and write the following things..." I've been teaching at the college level for the last few years, so it never occurred to me that middle schoolers would need more guidance in the realm of note-taking, but I'm willing to learn what to do to help them. They also want me to specify if they should take notes in print or cursive, write with pen or pencil, use an MLA heading, etc.

    My 8th graders are learning about describing the weather in Spanish. When students complained that they didn't copy down the weather phrases when I wrote them on the board the first time, I re-wrote them. At the end of class, I gave them a homework assignment that involved using some of their Spanish vocabulary to describe the weather (just a 2-3 sentence journal entry). Several students came up to me distraught because they didn't have the phrases in their notes. I wrote them on the board TWICE today! I already told my students that anything on the board should end up in their notes, but they haven't used that advice.

    I'm concerned about wasting too much time each day explaining my expectations for notes since my classes are quite short. What can I reasonably expect middle schoolers to be able to do in terms of taking class notes? Should I specify each thing I want them to copy down? At what point should students be able to take notes without close supervision or handouts? I know that even some college students struggle to take notes, so how can I help my students take notes more effectively? I want to prepare them for taking notes in high school where students are less likely to receive a lot of note-taking guidance.

    Thanks in advance!
     
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  3. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    Aug 22, 2011

    I have never taught this but my assumption is this age group does need a lot of support with HOW to take notes. That said, they don't need to be spoonfed. If you tell them that if it goes on the board, you should write it, then that's what they need to do. You may have to get hard about it and tell them to find a friend that followed directions or not give it to them. It sounds like they need some accountability. I buy that they forgot once bi more than that and repetitively having to repeat yourself on the same exact very clear easy to follow directive is not necessary. You may also need to take small grades on note-taking.
     
  4. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    Aug 22, 2011

    How about giving them a model note taking form that they can use? It could be a handout that goes I. The front of their binder, and they use it as a template to for at their own paper.

    Then, grade their notes randomly.

    Even my seniors were horrible at taking notes. I really think that this is a skill that students don't learn until college. I'm not sure how they suddenly learn, but most do.

    Part of the problem is that they are spoon fed too much all through high school, and the other problem is that if they aren't spoon fed to some degree they won't get the notes at all. It is frustrating.

    I'll be reexamining how I do notes this year also as I'll have juniors and seniors instead of mostly freshmen.
     
  5. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Aug 22, 2011

    I agree. Many/most of my students (9-12) struggle with note-taking. Part of it is a complete lack of knowledge or understanding about what good notes look like. Another part of it is a certain kind of laziness, them wanting me to tell them exactly what to write. There are also the issues of motor skills and basic literacy which, unfortunately, can come into play, even at this age. Many of our students are sloooooooow writers and poor spellers, so even just copying down what's written on the board can be an ordeal. The fact is that they have to start doing it, though. If they can't get it all done during class, I might make my notes available via a printout for them to copy down after school or something.

    I have to explicitly tell them how to take notes in the format that our school uses. I can't expect that they already know how to do it or that they'll figure it out. We have a note-taking lesson, with lots of mini note-taking refreshers at the beginning of the year. One of the things that my students seem to like is a copy of student notes written in the format that we use. They like being able to see what their notes will/should look like. You might want to make something like that available to your students and see if they find it helpful.
     
  6. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Aug 22, 2011

    Kids need to be taught that the same as they need to be taught everything else.

    A couple of times a class I pause and say "OK, write that down, either in your words or mine. Let me repeat what I said:...." They also know that they need to write anything I put on the board.
     
  7. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    I start off with handouts where I take out some of the words and replace them with blanks as we go through it. I cannot give long presentations that have to be written on the board because I run out of board space. I don't have access to any sort of projector to do a powerpoint. However, I think I am going to review with all my classes different types of note taking and have them take notes from their book. It's a little difficult in English because there's not a whole lot to take notes on in a typical class setting way since we mostly do literature and write.
     
  8. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    Aug 22, 2011

    Thanks for the advice, everyone!

    I'll have to figure out what format the school follows for note-taking. I've never used a notes format even as a student, so this is something new for me.

    An interesting observation: my 8th graders struggle with it a lot more than my 6th and 7th graders. I wonder what makes it so much more difficult for them to take notes on their own.

    Any tips on HOW to teach note-taking? I'm really at a loss. Perhaps someone could direct me to a website that helps with that? I have no idea what I want my students' notes to look like other than that they should contain the information written on the board (sample sentences, vocabulary lists, verb conjugations, etc.). I want to equip them to do well in the class, but I don't know how.
     
  9. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    My cooperating teacher taught British Literature chronologically and at the beginning of every section the students had to read the information at the beginning about the time period. She rotated what type of notes they had to take from cornell to a general outline, and one that I can't remember. She had them start in class as a whole class and then they spent some class time working independently so she could go around and check. They had to finish it for homework.

    In a way it's good because it showed them different types of note taking and gave them options. However, it was also VERY time consuming. I never took that detailed of notes in college except for one or two science courses. I think the last quarter she allowed them to take notes in whatever manner they wanted. They were always quizzed over the material they took notes on.
     
  10. WaterfallLady

    WaterfallLady Enthusiast

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    Aug 22, 2011

    My middle schoolers can't copy off the board. It's really difficult because we do most assignments together.
     
  11. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    If you PM me your email address, I can send you some stuff about Cornell note-taking, which is the system that our school uses.
     
  12. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    Aug 22, 2011

    In that case, is there a notes format that would be appropriate for a foreign language class?
     
  13. dgpiaffeteach

    dgpiaffeteach Aficionado

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    Well personally I think my note taking method is best :p However, I'm not sure how well it would work for foreign language. I do a basic outline. It would not include the structure that a normal outline would. Just bullets indented to the topic.

    I'm not sure how it would work for a foreign language class, however. You could google cornell notes. My teacher loved them but I've never used them so don't know much about them.

    I tried to put in the form I used but it doesn't show up right.
     
  14. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Aug 22, 2011

    They'll never learn how to take good notes if nobody ever TEACHES them how to take notes. It's a learned skill like everything else.
     
  15. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    Aug 22, 2011

    This is difficult for me because no one ever taught me how to take notes. I'm completely unfamiliar with formal notetaking strategies, and I've had to wing it all this time. I never said it wasn't my job to teach them this, but I just need suggestions on HOW to teach them.
     
  16. porque_pig

    porque_pig Comrade

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    Aug 22, 2011

    I've looked into some of the formats you guys recommended, and I think the Cornell notes might work out. I'll keep you posted on how it works with my students! Thank you all for your help!
     
  17. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    Aug 22, 2011

    How you take notes really depends on your purpose. We use Cornell method, SQ3R, outline, and graphic organizers. By the end of sixth grade, the majority of my students are able to take notes from a text and some are working on developing note taking from a conversation.
     
  18. Charger

    Charger Companion

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    Aug 25, 2011

    Mopar, how do your kids take notes when using SQ3R? I'd like to start using it and I know they write and answer questions, but not sure what format to use with notes.
     

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