Unsure of how to incorporate note taking into an elementary classroom, I did not explicitly teach the practice in my student teaching experience. This may change for me, as I have found that note taking can be taught even in the early elementary years using strategies that do not necessarily require a high command of written English. According to Dean et al, note taking strategies provide “opportunities for students to capture, organize, and reflect on important facts, concepts, ideas, and processes they will need to access at a later time” (2012, p. 73). As students then progress through their schooling, they will become accustomed to taking and using notes to better recall information and review concepts; they will also be more comfortable with the practice as they go into higher levels of education where such practices are critical to student success. Currently, I give myself a “1” overall in note-taking as an educational strategy. However, I will give myself credit for creating teacher-prepared notes on occasion to help students follow along and have reference materials accessible, so in the sub-category of “Give students teacher-prepared notes,” (Pitler and Stone, 2012, p. 198) I would give myself a 2 for having tried this practice before, but no more than that since I did not provide much opportunity for students to contribute to those notes in their own way.
Next year is my first year in a first-grade classroom. I feel as if Dean et al (2012) provided me with some useful examples of how I can introduce note-taking to my students. One of the authors’ examples was to use teacher-created notes with pieces missing, as shown in the example on p. 92 with student “Marty.” The teacher created a table that was partially filled in, leaving the student to fill in information about each place value such as tens being a group of ten ones and what a base-ten block “long” (or “ten”) reminded him of. Not only does this allow Marty to focus on content instead of what to write down, but also allows this first-grader a chance to relate this concept to his prior knowledge – what the block reminds him of from his own life. I also enjoyed the example of the reading of The Very Hungry Caterpillar in which students drew pictures of the main points of the story on adding machine paper in order to retell the story to a friend. This helps students understand from an early age the importance of focusing on the main points in the story when taking notes – a concept that some college students still have yet to master. I enjoyed that these examples used little-to-no written language, allowing students to be able to express themselves in a way they can later understand, even with their limited writing ability.
Next year, I may use some of these ideas, but would also like to incorporate technology in helping teach my students about note-taking. Apps like Kidspiration allow students to use visual representations to create idea webs and other documents that allow students to organize their ideas in a creative way. For students who are more concrete in their thinking, short phrases could also be used to keep track of main ideas. By being able to manipulate the figures with their fingers or a mouse, students will be able to experiment with different ways of organizing the information without having to start on a new piece of paper. Regardless of the method by which I introduce my students to note-taking, I surely will be ensuring they are being taught explicitly, as “note-taking strategies are not intuitive” (Pitler and Stone, 2012, p. 185).
Dean, C. B., Hubbell, E. R., Pitler, H., & Stone, B. (2012). Classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
Pitler, H. & Stone, B. (2012). A handbook for classroom instruction that works: 2nd edition. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.