Taking Notes

This year I tried out a simplified version of rules, basically aligned with the conversations on the topic over on Ben’s blog, and rule number one states: no note taking.  This goes with rule number two–nothing on the desks–which I have really enjoyed this year, but today made me wonder if I’ve been throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

I spent today going over the rules again with everybody (in anticipation of a interpersonal communication rubric I’ll be using soon), but when rolling this out first period to my advanced class, the conversation got rather lively.

The thing is that I never formally done a rule review yet this year in my III/IV class.  As I’ve stated earlier, this is a dream class that I just don’t have to classroom manage, and so I just didn’t do it.  They know what I want by now and just give it to me.

What I wasn’t expecting was how much pushback I got on the no notes rule.  The students there said they depended upon their notes big time.  Some of them would take them home and study them.  Others said that they never read the notes but the process of writing the words down helped them register the words better.  Some people said they didn’t need the notes.  Simply put, they have invested in those notebooks and notes that I’ve been moving away from this year and it was a very strong feeling.

Based on that, I had the pro/con note discussion with each of my classes.  I like the no notes because students can’t hide behind note taking (while really doodling or messing around), but I concede the point.  We decided that notes would be allowed if a) the notebook was only open while people are actively taking notes and b) they didn’t spend more than two minutes in any one stretch taking notes.  On my part I promised to give them enough brain breaks to process and tighten up the notes.  Good negotiation, and I’m glad I didn’t overfix something that was really working.


4 responses to “Taking Notes

  1. I’ve come to sometimes asking them to do writing, and other times trying to keep the notebooks under the seats (I have no desks). I feel as though some kids need the notebooks for exactly the reasons you mention–and I’m glad there’s someone else who is not pushing too hard. If kids like notes as a security blanket, I hate to disappoint them.


  2. I am having some of the same issues. It seems to be more problematic with the older ones. I recently saw a girl “taking notes”. She was copying History notes that she had missed the day before! I like those two rules which I am enforcing while teaching to the eyes. Caro Gaab told me she gives them time at the end of the class to copy from the board: With five minutes, some copy and some don’t care enough to copy and I have wasted 5 minutes of CI! I do a Revision a la Bryce’s Repasito at the beginning of class which seems to feed the need for notes! Tiz a puzzlement. Re the notebooks, I followed the tack that I was through with being the notebook police. I told them all to figure it out, but I also explained that I used to require a notebook and that I would be happy to tell them how to set that up. I was surprised by the number of requests I got!


  3. One thing that helps in my room is that they have to use the comp books that then “live” in the room for any notes. Few kids have noticed what I just realized: that means they don’t have their history notes in the same booklet. We do all our quizzes in that comp book, and we also do quick writes and everything else. They can take their comp books at the end of the year, but generally aren’t allowed to take them home. If they really beg, and if they’re dependable, I let them, but also let them know that any missing grades for the times I’m looking them over are up to them.


  4. Hola Nathan! I love your post. I love the message of respect in that negotiation. I believe we need to do more and more of that. We need to negotiate the rules, we need to make the students active participants in the environment we create. It is their class, it is our class, it is not my class.
    In relation to the issue itself, even at elementary level, my students like the notebook. I also keep the notebooks in the classroom and they are only for Spanish. Randomly my students jump from their desks to the baskets to grab the notebook and check for something, and then I see the joy in their faces. It happens during almost all activities, either writing, or storytelling, or playing games.
    After reading Tony Buzan’s books on the importance of multiple stimuli during the learning process, those symbols and images that the students produce and create while being exposed to words and expressions are very valuable. My students’ notebooks look like pictionaries more than anything else.


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