You don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
Every time I have a long enough break to reflect on my teaching, I suddenly want to revamp EVERYTHING. I want to try EVERYTHING. First, I go to Pinterest and pin hundreds of ideas. Next, I start at least 10 massive projects to transform my classroom. It’s pathetic! Sometimes I start so many projects at once, when I go back to one, I completely forget my original intentions. Well, not this year. You will be proud of me to know that I am only planning two transformations. Today, I want to share my thoughts on classroom note taking.
Evaluate current practices
Notes in the SDC English classroom have been problematic since I began teaching. One quality a majority of my students share is a lack of organization. This is problematic and evident in so many areas of their academic lives. For example, I actually assigned one student the task of going outside during class with the TA to clean out his backpack. This 53 minute endeavor resulted in multiple moldy food items including sandwiches and pizza slices, but also, the appearance of multiple assignments for Biology, History, and English that were completed and never turned in for credit!
The point is, my students struggle with organization and structures, and in order to teach English, I also have to teach this skill. Due to this issue, during Fall 2016, I guided students through the process of creating a digital notebook and I also taught them how to create a table of contents to help keep their notes organized. Below is an example of first period notes.
Initially, the results were marvelous. Every student had a neat and organized digital notebook where they could access information from any location. Perfect, right? Unfortunately, as we took weekly quizzes, students did not show any more proficiency with the material than in previous years. Naturally, the difficulties of structure and organization also lend to a lack of skills to study material, or the ability to recognize what information might be important to remember. Thus, this is one area I am focused on improving for the spring semester.
plan for change
As it is, I’m usually late to the party; but I’ve determined Sketchnotes may be worth investing time in for the spring semester. As mentioned in a previous post, when students drew pictures of vocabulary words directly on their Hamlet script, their retention increased noticeably on the vocabulary section of the weekly quizzes. Of course, you might think Sketchnotes will pose a problem for the kiddos without organizational skills. Don’t worry, I’ve considered this possibility. There are actual formatting patterns for Sketchnotes and like any new skill, I will have to teach these patterns to the students.
In the beginning, I will model the process using a document scanner. I will encourage students to express themselves individually and I will also offer options. Naturally, many students will be like myself and completely unable to draw; however, good and bad pictures all aid in memory and the look of the sketch notes. While there are a multitude of resources available online, I purchased a copy of The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde, which has given me the confidence to share this method with my students. I’ve been practicing by Sketching chapter summaries for Black Boy.
While I may not have to reinvent the wheel, sometimes it’s a good idea to update how you use it.
Have you tried Sketchnotes? What are you planning to change in the new semester?