Monday, November 21, 2011

Cornell Notes: An upgrade from brussel sprouts

You know you're passionate about a topic when you're willing to share dorky graduation photos with teenagers to make a point. This is totally how I feel about Cornell Notes.
To refresh your memory, I'm teaching study skills to a group of 9th grade pre-AP Global Studies students. So far I've brainstormed different note-taking strategies, and taught them how to make concept maps.

For the second strategy, I taught students how to use Cornell notes. I'm personally indebted to Cornell notes, as the method definitely contributed to my success as a student. When I was a know-it-all 9th grader, my mom, a study skills teacher herself, showed me how to use the strategy. Even though I rolled my eyes, and did my best to ignore her, something clicked for me. Cornell notes got me through high school, and then undergrad, and eventually my Master's degree.

Out of the 140 kids I met with this month, only 2 had ever heard of it before. Here's a quick graphic that explains Cornell notes:
Image from:

The best part about Cornell notes is that if you use this strategy, you're ready to study for tests -- no flash cards to make, no outlining to do -- it's already right there in front of you.

I LOVE this YouTube video about Cornell Notes. The video's best line: "I like my summaries like a mini-skirt - short - enough - but still covers all the important stuff."

Even with all my love for the subject, some of the students still wanted to know when they got to take "plain old notes." If concept mapping was like getting them to eat brussel sprouts, Cornell notes are like getting them to eat carrots; it's still a vegetable, but at least a more popular one. : )

If you're interested, our Cornell notes PowerPoint is available here and the rubric is available here.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Are you digging the iPad?

To recap, we're teaching an entire research project, from soup to nuts, on the iPads. As teachers, we've had mixed feelings, though as the project continues, we're seeing more of the benefits and less of the frustration. 

We recently asked our kids to rate their experiences using the iPad as a tool for research. Below are their answers, via DoodleBuddy. For the most part, you'll see that they're quite positive, but some students' responses mirror the frustration we occasionally experience as educators! :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Potatoes and the English - November Displays

This month we're featuring spuds and books from across the pond.

Our first display is all about "Book Potatoes -- s-mashing books that have been vegetating on the shelf too long." I totally copied this display (and the original looks way better) so can't claim any of the creativity behind this idea. The display features books that have never been circulated (we own a scary number of these!) or books that haven't left the library in few years.

Our circulation desk display area is dressed up as an Olde English Book Shoppe, complete with Big Ben and a British telephone booth -- props leftover from a local festival. The titles featured here were either written by English authors or the books are set in the UK.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Soup to nuts research is DRIVING us nuts!

Can you tell things got crazy 'round here? Two weeks and no posts - oops! There goes that blogging resolution!
Image from Lovell Communications

Back today with an update on our research project we're teaching exclusively on the iPads. It's been . . . interesting. I'm working with inclusion classes - in some instances, there are more students in the class WITH IEPs and 504s than students without accommodations.

My initial thought was -- "Instruction on the iPad - great! iPads are so easy! They'll fly through this! And tons of opportunities for differentiation!" To date, things aren't running quite so smoothly (and any !s in real life are usually proceeded by a mental swear word). I'm pretty sure the challenges are due to a lack of proficiency and foresight on my I remain hopeful!

We're finding that we need to devote a good chunk of time to teaching the kids how to use the iPad itself -- this is eating into our information literacy/research instruction time. For example, when searching for database articles, not only do we need to talk about how to search a database, we also need to demonstrate how to use ReaddleDocs' built in browser and how to save articles in PDF format. If we were sitting at desktop computers, these skills would be second nature for the students.

This doesn't mean the time we're spending on iPad instruction is a waste -- as it's becoming an increasingly essential skill, but it's a time sink we didn't necessarily plan for. Which, come to think of it, was really stupid on our part.

So far we've survived Internet research, database research, book research, and generating source cards on the Index Card app.

Tomorrow we use ReaddleDocs to highlight PDFs we've saved during the research phase. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as 1) Uncap highlighter and 2) Put highlighter to paper. Wish us luck!