Monday, October 3, 2011

Note-taking is like brussel sprouts (at least if you're 14)

Back in August, I mentioned that I was going to be teaching a study skills unit.

Image from:

I am now teaching said unit. I've learned the following:
  • Fourteen-year-olds aren't big fans of note-taking.
  • Comparing the process to brussel sprouts (the more you eat them, the more you like them), doesn't seem to help.
  • Note taking requires a brain. Especially when I force you to identify main ideas, paraphrase and summarize.
  • Thinking can be hard.
  • Concept maps are messy.
  • Our Pre-AP kids like things in neat, straight lines. They're the type who carry around a bottle of white out in their pencil case. Therefore, they do not like concept maps.
  • Even smart teenagers occasionally fail to follow directions.
  • I don't particularly like grading papers.
We started out the unit with a lesson on note-taking. If you're so inclined, you can check out the PowerPoint here. We talked about:
  • Why we take notes
  • How we take notes
  • The Technique of the Month: Concept Maps
We did a little practice session with a paragraph from their [super-duper hard to read college level] textbook, and then had them complete the map for homework.

They turned in their assignment. I graded them. As a librarian, I do just about every aspect of teaching, but I don't grade on a regular basis. This time around, I volunteered to do the grading - I'd taught the lesson and developed the rubric, so it seemed only fair that I assign the grades, too.

Grading isn't fun. Completing rubrics (see our rubric here) and leaving comments on 150 concept maps ate up a lot of my weekend (the chocolate chip cookies for Custodian's Day didn't get baked). But guess what -- I volunteered to grade the next mapping assignment, too. It's totally worth it because I can see if they "got it." Did my lesson sink in? Did I succeed as a teacher? What do I need to change?

Most importantly, grading enforces my role as a true co-teacher. Giving the grade helps my collaborators AND the students view me as a teacher, rather than "just" the librarian.

Tomorrow I'm headed back into the AP classrooms This time, I'm showcasing two FABULOUS concept mapping apps. I'm in love with both of them, and hoping that some great technology is the "spoonful of sugar" the activity needs.
Check out:
SimpleMind+ ($3.99 for full functionality - and worth EVERY penny)
IdeaSketch (free)

Anyone have any ideas to make note-taking FUN?

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