Hi Everyone,
I am new to the teaching realm and am curious about effective techniques for note taking and summarizing that are more effective than just copying down what is on the board?  Thanks for your help.

Christina Kemp

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I've heard suggestions that having students do webs or other graphic organizers may be more effective than just straight note copying. Don't know if there is any research to support the idea.
I tell my students that copying is a work-out for your hand, note-taking is a work-out for your head. The key is to extract the key information by writing key words and the important details about them. Split-page notes very similar to Cornell notes, are note-taking strategies that help students do exactly that. One the left side of the page, a heading, question, or key word is written---the right is where the details are written. Bonus! It is also a perfect study guide---just fold the paper over to look only at the question/key work/heading and try to remember the relevant details that are on the other side.

Depending on the structure of the information there are many other graphic organizers to use as note-taking strategies in this way.

The key is to get their brains involved in the process---some teachers have students copy the information in Split-page format or worse, give them a handout already filled out. This defeats the purpose and is not effective as a note-taking strategy. A teacher might, in the beginning, give a partially filled out graphic organizer and have students read and work together for find the information, but eventually you want the kids to be able to be able to select, and use a strategy on their own.

For a research base check out Marzano's Nine Essential Instructional Strategies. He specifically mentions note-taking and summarizing. Good luck!
If you fancy using web applications, there are three which I can suggest and these happen to be one of the most popular ones as well - Evernote, Google notes and Ubernote. Evernote (Evernote) is one of the most talked about online note taking applications. One special feature here is the drag-and-drop desktop version that allows you to see your notes and clips offline.

Loosestitch is an outliner if you want to jot down ideas.(www.loosestitch.com).

Let me know if that helps.
Thank you for all the great suggestions!
There are several free web-based apps for notetaking, but students still need to understand "how" to take notes. I find that most do not have a process. Quite often teachers tell students to "put it in your own words" or summarize. We may teach how to summarize, but it's important to know "when." Summarizing takes practice, lots; also being able to identify the main idea. I've used "Trash and Treasure," a notetaking strategy; it was o.k. I am developing one, as I work w/my elementary students; it will involve both online and pencil/paper. I started this spring and will refine it next school year. Students need to reflect and monitor the process to see if it's working; discuss in their groups. I would love for us to share a notetaking process that we have taught or that our students have developed on their own. It's important that we have different ways of achieving the same goal.
Pamela, I would love to hear more about your notetaking process and how you present it to your students. I have changed mine every year, in response to different things. For example, when they use an online encyclopedia for information or download an image, the citation is right there for them to copy and paste. I've taught them to cut and paste source citations to a word document. It's messier with websites, since we have to analyze the information first, to determine if it's a reliable source. As far as paraphrasing, we never stop talking about this! It's difficult for elementary student, even my G/T students. I have them minimize the web page and jot down on paper or index cards what they remember in bullet-pointed phrases. But it is a challenge for them. If you have any techniques you find helpful, I'd love to learn from you. Since you are refining your process, rather than scrapping it and starting over (as I've often done!), then you must have found it to be somewhat successful. Please share! :)

I will be glad to work w/you on this project. It seems that selecting tools for elementary school is most challenging since most require ages 13+. Here is a list of tools for notetaking annotations. Diigo for educators may be another useful tool that I'll use this year since it supports K12. I want to move from cut/paste w/multi windows to using sticky note apps, bookmarklets, and web notebooks like Evernote or Zotero. Also, students need to share and discuss their notes. As for paraphrasing, it's difficult for most folks, much less students; as they do it all online it becomes even harder without a clearly defined process. As more web apps like Speed Reader are developed this may help students skim and scan and pick out key phrases for notetaking. Also, remember what does the process look like when you're not in a 1:1 laptop school or have limited computer access; we must accommodate both scenarios.
Thanks for sharing those tools. I'm intrigued by all of the apps, and I am excited about the possibilities. One thought: I know that last year, the kids actually asked to go to the library to check out physical books because their eyes and brains were weary from the plethora of information, and they wanted a good old-fashioned book. (They were doing independent research so there was no collaboration). I know, I know... e-books are here to stay and our libraries will become museums, but honestly I worry about doing everything digitally with young kids... they tire after a while and I know they're playing video games at home, too. Hey, it's my contribution to their physical health (fighting obesity)! They must WALK to the library and WALK back to class! Gives them a mental break, too. I am possibly alone in this sentiment, but there it is.
You might be interested in taking a look at Wiznotes. It is note taking software that is specifically designed as a productivity tool for students. We will be coming out with an update within the next few weeks. We continue to improve and develop this product and we are always interested in feedback from teachers. We care very much about education. If there is something that you would like, please let us know.

Eli Cohen
Mesoraware (Wiznotes is a division of Mesoraware)
(This was posted here because it is relevant to this particular topic)
It looks pretty good; Although, I would like to see the K12 version web-based than a download.

Our original goal was to produce on online version which students can also use offline when they do not have an internet connection. Without going into technical details, we needed to build the downloadable version first which we are now converting so that it will also run online.

Thanks for the feedback.

Eli Cohen
Mesoraware (Wiznotes is a division of Mesoraware)
I like to teach students to use concept maps to create notes, using web applications such as Webspiration for grades 6+ (allows multiple users to collaborate), View Your Mind (open source) and Kidspiration (for children in primary and early intermediate grades).

One of the critical skills in note-taking that we want students to develop is the ability to organize their ideas, separating between main ideas and supporting details. Unfortunately, when many students take bullet-style notes they are just long lists of details (a list of bullet points) with no categorization or organization beyond the order in which the ideas occurred to them. Once they have created such a list, it is difficult to go back and re-organize the ideas into categories.

I find that mind-mapping software makes it easy for students to categorize their ideas. They can still begin by jotting down ideas as they occur, making a simple brainstorming web. What mind-mapping applications allow you to do afterwards, though, is to click and drag the ideas so that similar ideas can be dragged so that they are physically next to one another on screen. They can also be color-coded to make categories even more apparent. Once similar ideas are physically located next to each other, students can develop category headings. It is easy for the teacher to model this on the SMARTBoard, and a good collaborative activity for partners and small groups.

Another important thinking skill that is developed when doing notes as concept maps is the development of connections between ideas. After students have their thoughts down in the simple brainstorm web, it is a simple mouse click to draw a line connecting two ideas. Students are then able to type onto these connecting lines to show how these ideas are connected.

With the click of a button, the concept map is transformed to a set of outline notes (user can switch between concept map and outline view). Many of these apps also allow the note-taker to insert visuals instead of, or alongside, the words. This can be especially useful for young students, or for students with special needs.

Concept maps can be used for formative assessment, before beginning a unit of study, to gauge students' background knowledge. As students study the topic, the concept maps can be added to and refined. A completed concept map after the unit of study is also a good item to use as a summative assessment of learning. Concept maps also make good pre-writing tools to teach idea-generation and organization in writing.



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