By: Michael Capps, Manager of Instructional Content
Taking notes is a skill whose form has evolved over the years. As new technologies have been developed, new opportunities have been created for students to take notes using a variety of apps, digital tools, and different media types. One thing that hasn't changed is the importance of taking quality notes. "Quality notes" is a highly subjective term, but most educators agree that a crucial component is students' notes must be meaningful and make sense to the note taker.
There are a variety of ways to teach note-taking to students, but some powerful practices to consider include:
Set a Purpose
- Setting a purpose for note-taking makes the process of taking notes important to the student and provides a vested interest in those notes being easy for a student to understand.
- Having an identified purpose for taking notes allows students to focus on information that supports their goal. Too often students try to create a copy of a text, lecture, or experience, which has little long-term value for student learning.
- In social studies, an authentic purpose could include preparing for a summative assessment, paraphrasing a multimodal text to ensure understanding, or connecting primary sources in support of a historical investigation.
Expose Students to various Note-Taking Strategies
- Taking notes is a highly individualized process so providing students with options for note-taking/note-making allows them to choose a strategy that supports their purpose
- Some type of “shorthand” or use of abbreviations, symbols, or “code” will allow students to quickly capture important information.
Collaborate and Revisit Notes
- Comparing notes is an excellent collaboration opportunity for students and aids them in determining if the notes they have taken serve the purpose for taking them. Students can also learn note-taking/note-making strategies from other students.
- Waiting until a student’s notes are needed doesn’t provide the chance to review, revise, or edit the notes and may lose their value, especially if the source material for the notes isn’t accessible to the student anymore. Revisiting notes can also serve as a self-evaluation of a student’s note-taking methods. Are the notes too lengthy? Too short? Hard to decipher or confusing? A student coming to any of these conclusions may want to adjust their note-taking strategy so that the process is more effective.
Social Studies Techbook supports student note-taking through the use of the Core Interactive Text's tools, specifically the Highlight and Take Notes functions. Students can highlight Core Interactive Text (CIT)in one of four different colors. As a class, creating a common key for highlighting text allows students to compare their notes and have collaborative discussions about the CIT. For example, key vocabulary might be highlighted yellow, topics for further clarification or investigation might be highlighted blue, and evidence that supports developing a historical explanation might be highlighted pink. The Take Notes function can be applied beyond the CIT, providing a space for note-taking about images, video segments, reading passages, and activities such as working with primary sources. Students can easily access their notes through My Notebook, which indexes notes across all concepts in Social Studies Techbook and even additional Discovery Education services, such as Math Techbook and Science Techbook.