I am currently teaching a unit on website evaluation to our 4th and 5th grade students. We meet weekly for a one-hour session over the period of eight weeks. This is integrated into a social studies unit on the presidential election.
The social studies teacher asked me to start off by teaching a lesson on note taking. As I told the students, it’s a skill they will use throughout their lives, not only in school but also in working life. Each class worked through a one-page encyclopedia entry on the Everglades I had copied from a Florida history text. We applied the two-column method as I personally like it for its versatility; it’s easily applied to text, film, lectures, presentations. As a class, we worked our way through the first few paragraphs, identifying the main idea and supporting detail. Then students worked through the remainder of the text in small groups.
For the students, the hard part was to avoid copying whole sentences rather than jotting down keywords/phrases, preferably in their own words. Their homework assignment was to then write an informational paragraph using just their notes (I collected the original text).
As teachers, we like those critical thinking skills that are put to use when students are taking notes. Students in both grades stated when asked why note taking can be useful: We use our brains. Indeed! So at the end of the lessons I asked students to fill out exit slips with the following questions: Why is it important to take notes? How can note taking help you with your school work? I’ve compiled the answers for each class in two separate Wordles:
Obviously the students got it: “to help remember information” was answered by all. Some went further and said it’s a good organizational tool, a study aid, helps with grades. A couple of 5th graders also added that it helps avoid plagiarism. I think the students understood the idea and importance of taking notes. Now they just need to continue to apply those note taking skills to become fluent.