If you want students to learn, teach them how to take notes

May 28

A recent study showed that students who take notes in longhand retain information better than those who take notes on laptops or tablets. But what about the many students, in D.C. and elsewhere, who don’t take notes at all?

Note-taking is a hit-or-miss proposition in DCPS schools, with no prescribed approach or requirement that teachers focus on it, according to two DCPS instructional coaches who are former teachers. But, say the coaches, it’s a crucial skill that requires students to synthesize information and figure out for themselves what is important, something their students struggle to do. Both coaches are now taking the initiative to introduce note-taking instruction to their schools.

Research has found that students who take notes and then review them recall more material and score higher on tests. While some college instructors provide notes to students these days in an effort to reduce inaccuracies, experts have cautioned that instructors shouldn’t just spoon-feed content to students. In the long run, they say, students need to learn how to organize ideas for themselves.

Providing largely pre-taken notes to students isn’t a phenomenon that’s confined to the college level. Lauren Castillo, an instructional coach at the preK-through-8th-grade Truesdell Education Campus in Ward 4, says that she’s seen a lot of teachers use “guided notes.”

Those are handouts that include blanks for students to fill in, perhaps from a PowerPoint presentation. She says that in her experience that approach doesn’t really engage kids in what they’re learning.

“My first and second years teaching I used a lot of guided notes,” Castillo says. “I was a little afraid to say ‘take notes,’ because the students didn’t know what to do.”

[Continue reading Natalie Wexler's post at Greater Greater Education.]

Natalie Wexler is the editor of Greater Greater Education and a member of the board of the D.C. Scholars Public Charter School. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

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