A Revolutionary Idea: Taking Notes During Class

I've been revisiting my “Do This Differently Next Year” document (currently at twelve single-spaced, glorious pages) more frequently as the school year wraps up. I want to write about my favorite success of this year, one that I will replicate and expand in full force next year: the notebook.

You know, that stack of bound pieces of paper where people can write stuff.



Disclaimer: This is the least innovative thing in the universe. Students taking notes while learning is like the most obvious and not-interesting thing that has been in classrooms since the dawn of time. I realize this.

But still! Hear me out! I never actually required note-taking before. Or really taught kids how to do it effectively (jury’s still out on that part). I’ve always just kind of assumed that good students take notes. That everyone surely learned this before high school. It’s always on the syllabus that they need a notebook for our class, and I’ll regularly say things like “Be sure to write this down” or “Put this in your notes, please.” But that’s about as far as I ever took it. I never followed up.


This past spring (in my tenth year of teaching, mind you -- I knowwww) was the first time I decided to approach student notebooks with seriousness.

I did this with 12th graders in Reel Reading, a film studies English elective.





On the first day of class, I established fresh expectations. Students needed a dedicated notebook for our class, so I encouraged them to obtain one that they love. I told them what kinds of things they could expect to write down, how often I would be checking it, and how it’s being graded.

Why, yes, I do have a rubric.

We talked about making notes, not taking notes. Notes are made when your brain is processing information and reframing it in your own words. Even if you never look at your notes again, your brain has already worked more effectively in simply writing them.


I also shared with them a Pinterest board I made called “Class Notes” so they could gather inspiration. I talked about how different people’s notes look different, and organization and creativity take many forms. The larger goal was for students to feel comfortable with note-taking in all sorts of endeavors beyond our class, so it would be important for them to personalize the process and take ownership of what works for them.


From the outset, different students approached the notebook in different ways (like I hoped they would). Some students went out and purchased a fancy new notebook. Some students dug up an old composition book or recycled a previously-used one. One student grabbed a bunch of copy paper and a staple gun from the engineering classroom.


And throughout the semester, students evolved their own note-taking styles.

Some furiously scribbled everything, and others struggled to figure out what to write.
Some brought pouches full of pens and art supplies and went to town, and others whittled the same pencil down to a nub.
Some organized information linearly, and others not so much.
Some were asked to put their notebooks away in other people's classes, and others used them as minimally as I required of them.

The outcome runs whole gamut, really, as seen in this photo dump of notebook pages:























(In case you're wondering, some of the films we've watched and analyzed are: Edward Scissorhands // The Graduate // Psycho // Rear Window // Jaws // The Grand Budapest Hotel // Do The Right Thing // The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly // Double Indemnity // American Beauty // Beasts of the Southern Wild)


One layer is seeing how different brains process the same texts. These pages pack a hilarious array of emotions that a person might go through in reading/viewing or in a class discussion.

Another layer is the participation/sharing element. Raising a hand and saying something out loud is not for everyone, every day. I've found that the notebook contains so much more than what a student is able to share in discussions. It helps lay the groundwork.



The notebook has changed the whole vibe of my class. It’s like every student has an ongoing micro-project at all times. A space for their brain to make things and process things. A space to document the most important ideas and doodle in the margins.

No matter how strong their notebook game, every student could benefit from actively engaging in processing information onto paper.




If you’re teacher-nerdy and want more specifics, shoot me a note and I’ll pass along some stuff I’ve used.

76 comments:

  1. I think that it's an amazing post :) I like such notes very much but when I must write smth seriously I ask http://www.essaywriters.reviews/ to do it for me because they do it better :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Me! Me! I am teacher-nerdy! Do share any additional information/resources with deborahlbright@gmail.com. Thank you! Wonderful post!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks, Deborah! I'm emailing you :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would like more info also please.

      Thank you!

      Delete
    2. I would like more info also please.

      Thank you!

      Delete
  4. Hi Amal! I just finished my first year of teaching and am planning different ways to help students take notes next year. Would you mind sharing resources? emily.longenecker@gmail.com. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  5. This was a great entry...I included it in my lesson on Note-taking for this year's Summer Bridge curriculum!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love this. I strive to enlist peer and parent support of creative student notetaking. Would you share the rubric you reference as well as anything else you know will support my instruction and student success? Thank you , Lisa. Lcates@sisd.org

    ReplyDelete
  7. Please send info to me--I love this! darropk@bay.k12.fl.us

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm looking to move away from skeleton notes to something that will have students be more active. I'd love any resources or insights you can offer! Love your students notes! I was/am totally a doodler. crystalkreisel@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  9. I would love to see your rubric. pamela.homan@ops.org

    ReplyDelete
  10. I would love anything you are willing to share! I'm going into my 11th (or 12th? I have honestly lost count) year teaching and need to change my approach to notes in my classroom. I am planning to use interactive notebooks this year for the first time.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Please send me specifics - I'm very interested!
    Thanks! annec1229@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  12. I would love to see your rubric. pamela.homan@ops.org

    ReplyDelete
  13. I would love to see your rubric. pamela.homan@ops.org

    ReplyDelete
  14. I, too, would like to see your rubric and any other ideas you have. bdenboer98@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  15. Please share! I need help getting students onboard with taking notes. katinsc@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  16. I'd love to have anything you would be willing to share. I have always assumed that students take notes bc they should but by the end of the year few students are even carrying a notebook. I'm thinking of placing more emphasis on it this year so I'm looking for anything I can get my hands on. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Amal! I'm a nerdy mcnerd and am so pumped about how you did this and some of the resources to get it started in my room. Ninamlane416@gmail.com. I appreciate your post and willingness to share. So pumped to get my kiddos engaged in note taking.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Needy and would love any ideas you have to share.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I would love to know more! I love that they get note taking skills for future! Drake.tamara at gmail :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. I have tried to do notes & notebooks several different ways (interactive notebooks, Cornell notes, tons of handouts) but haven't come up with anything I like yet. I would love to see whatever you're willing to share about notebooks! I really like that you let students take notes however they like. Great ideas! Email me cvsigala14@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  21. Love it! Please share with me! I agree with you! Karen.m.vandiver@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  22. Yes I am teacher nerdy!...please any help with note taking will be appreciated. I haven't come up with any thing. like Chelsea I've run the gamut and nothing...These are great ideas...email me please sparrowoman2@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  23. Excellent ideas! I would love to know more! Can you send your resources to anderson.alisha.bhs@gmail.com? Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  24. Me too, me too! miss.waechter@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  25. I would also love to know more about the notebooks and your rubric! I'm moving to another grade level and need to change it up. Jahanlon@neo.rr.com

    ReplyDelete
  26. I would live more resources, specifically the rubric �� I am teaching grade 7&8 english to French immersion students. Getting them to write and learn to take notes is essential. Christine_Tibbles@kprdsb.ca thank you in advance

    ReplyDelete
  27. Note taking is something I've thought about often the last year or two. If possible, please send me your rubric, and anything else you'd be willing to share: jamiec@putnamcityschools.org

    ReplyDelete
  28. You have got marvelous results from your students! I would be so grateful for any resources you can send my way. I teach 11th and 12th grade English, and these are skills I would love to teach more effectively. laundryfairy@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  29. Awesome post! I would love the specifics of how you did this. My email is adbj83@bellsouth.net. Thanks so much!!

    ReplyDelete
  30. I would like to see your rubric. I share your enthusiasm for note-making.
    My school e-mail is pkooiker@epsne.org
    Thanks in advance,
    Pam

    ReplyDelete
  31. I would like to see your rubric. I share your enthusiasm for note-making.
    My school e-mail is pkooiker@epsne.org
    Thanks in advance,
    Pam

    ReplyDelete
  32. I would love to see your rubric and anything else you're willing to shareat! Paytonk@usd416.org

    ReplyDelete
  33. I would love to see your rubric and anything else you're willing to shareat! Paytonk@usd416.org

    ReplyDelete
  34. Would love to see your resources as I'm requiring more note taking throughout the year. Bcairns@cchsdons.com

    ReplyDelete
  35. Thank you in advance for sharing
    Rebeccaegmullin@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  36. I too would love to see what you use as a notebook rubric. I struggle with this yearly. Thank you for sharing.
    Candice.glydwell@stmarys-ok.org

    ReplyDelete
  37. I totally agree with your observations about reticent students and participation. Do please share with me your note-taking strategies and rubrics!! dratejana@gmail.com Thank you for veering off the sidewalk to engage students in a time learning!!

    ReplyDelete
  38. That would be "active learning" -- not "a time" learning.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Love this! I think (after reading this) that I am going to have my students take notes in their interactive notebooks. Kind of like a civics bullet journal! Car to share your rubric and any other resources you may have?all of my students have a diagnosed learning differences so note taking is something that they REALLY struggle with. I'm always looking for fresh and new ideas to help them. Thank you!! Jennifer.portilla@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  40. I love this idea, how would you suggest I lay the groundwork for this mental & physical information processing for fifth graders? I'd love any and all information you're willing to share. MissMLAndersen@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  41. Me too pls
    ...more info and the grading rubric...how often do you collect and grade...mona.mendez@rrps.net...thanks!!!

    ReplyDelete
  42. Me too pls
    ...more info and the grading rubric...how often do you collect and grade...mona.mendez@rrps.net...thanks!!!

    ReplyDelete
  43. Would love the info and rubric! This is what I've wanted to do in my APUSH class! Thank you so much!
    Pyalewasdyke@htps.us

    ReplyDelete
  44. Please share more.

    Stephanie.orourke@sdhc.k12.fl.us

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  45. Please share more.

    Stephanie.orourke@sdhc.k12.fl.us

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  46. Please send me any information as well lawhipkey@gmail.com. thank

    ReplyDelete
  47. Please send me any information as well lawhipkey@gmail.com. thank

    ReplyDelete
  48. Please send me some information lclwsn@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  49. Hi Amal, I would love more information! Kcjones501@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  50. Very interested! Mwelch@summitmail.org

    ReplyDelete
  51. Hi I am an ESL teacher and am deeply interested in visual notes (sketchnote) and have started to introduce the idea to students in class. I would really love to know the specifics!

    leorona@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  52. Would love any resources and rubric you could share. Thanks!! Cassieclooten@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  53. I think this is wonderful! I'd love any resources you'd be willing to share! aemerson@mail.dps.k12.va.us thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  54. Thank you for your willingness to share. I would love to see your resources and your rubric.
    jritenour@msdsc.us

    ReplyDelete
  55. I would love any resources you are willing to share--and thanks for the inspiration! writercarriec@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  56. Great post. My school requires Cornell notes. I struggle with that! Please send me your rubric and other info. Ramona_m2000@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  57. I would love any resources you will share! I want my freshmen to learn good habits now. Thank you so much! brunerd@avoneagles.org

    ReplyDelete
  58. Hey, hey! I'm always trying new ways to motivate students to engage with a notebook. Please share your resources! Thank you! starmonster31@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  59. Hi, great post. I'm a fairly new teacher and have struggled with making things meaningful at times for my students. I am always looking for ways to grow these kids skills for the future, not just in my classroom. I would love to know the specifics of how you present this and the grading rubric. Thanks so much for sharing fawnie71@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  60. Just what I have been looking for! I'm pretty new (3rd year coming up) and have been trying to figure out how to teach the kiddos to really take notes...plaese share resources and rubric! pam.cafasso@comcast.net
    Pam the Science Teacher Nerd

    ReplyDelete
  61. I would love any information you are willing to share!

    na.juarros@gmail.com

    Thank you!!

    ReplyDelete
  62. Hi Amal. I just came across this as I was researching ideas for a high school film class that I've been asked to teach this year. If you're still willing to share, I would love to see how this works. Email is phsa@gulliverschools.org.
    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  63. I would love more info. I'd like to try this this year.
    burchett.julie@wgmail.org
    Thank you!!
    Julie Burchett

    ReplyDelete
  64. Many thanks for sharing your worthy work. I'd love your rubric and any other materials. Many thanks!
    milton.maureen at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  65. Hello Amal, I actually was already thinking of doing something similar in my classroom because of things I have seen on pinterest ( https://www.pinterest.com/katbear121/note-takingstudying/ ). I have been cornell notes the past five years and some kids get it while others dont. I have been trying to figure out a rubric to use with this new system. Would you mind sharing your rubric with me so I can get an idea.Thanks!!! e.rose1118@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  66. I would love to have more info about what you have done! I'm always looking for ideas and ways to help my students. srapalmateer@gmail.com
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  67. I love this post! I would love to see any and all resources you have. I attempt to branch out and try new things each year and note taking the way you've presented looks so fun and creative--something I could definitely get behind! I definitely would love to see your note taking rubric! Ehle@shrineschools.com

    ReplyDelete
  68. I would LOVE anything you are willing to pass along! Note taking is a difficult thing to teach. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  69. Thank you for sharing this! I would love anything you have. Michele.lundin@imagineschools.org

    ReplyDelete
  70. Hi Amal, thank you for this post. I really enjoyed reading it. It's fascinating how different people process information! I love how you've incorporated this into your classroom, and would love some further information if you're happy to share :) A rubric would be amazing!

    I am a pre-service teacher, and this is certainly high on my list of skills I would love to be able to encourage, develop and reinforce with students.

    My email is U1069744@umail.usq.edu.au

    Elise

    ReplyDelete
  71. I love this, especially the pictures! I've noticed that many of my students don't take notes. I try to remind them, but I hadn't thought of making it a required part of the class. Teaching note making--yes! I am gonna try this. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  72. I love this idea. I am working on my national boards certification and have just moved to sixth grade, so every task is a new experience for me. In upper grades note taking is more engrained in students, but in sixth, they do not know what is important and what to write down! I would love to see some more of your thought process! Summers87122@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  73. This is amazing! I'd love to see what other great ideas you have! tbarrett2@wcpss.net

    ReplyDelete