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.