This lesson can be used at any time of the year, as long as you have a significant challenge or task to go along with the process of note taking. The key is to design a task in which notes are needed to succeed. You don’t want to have students taking notes simply because we ask them to. Instead we want to show them how they an use note taking as a tool for learning. I often have some type of project set up around this work and use this type of lesson to encourage project planning (something that notes generally seem to help). I tell students they will have 30 minutes to plan and take notes. I encourage to record their questions, comments and ideas and remind them to include me as a collaborator in their notes.
I facilitate during this part of class in two distinct ways. I do circulate around the room, encouraging students on innovative approaches to note taking and taking notes of the specific ideas I see. I like to use that later in class during the summary.
The second way I facilitate is to sit at a table and log in to their notes. I join the conversation by typing my feedback into the document. This is a fun exercise because we are essentially having a silent conversation. They get a moment to see how I give input during the note taking process and immediately recognize the value in using notes to communicate. I try to do this with as many groups as possible. It is fun and it gives me insight into their note taking style and habits.
I like to finish classes like this by sharing some of the note taking techniques and ideas I saw from the group, whether it involved organization, color, layout, etc. I ask the group to share their own observations about what did and what didn’t work well. Students tend to agree that writing equations is fairly cumbersome. I use that as an opportunity to walk students through the equation editor on Google Docs and introduce Apps like Daum Equation Editor:
I model the equation editor for the class and show them how they can set up all types of powerful equations and the copy and paste into any document. This equation editor has many great options and allows students to save their equation as text or an image:
I like showing equation editors because it gets students excited about setting up complex formulas. The editors are neat and encourage students to deliberately play with the arrangement of the terms in the expression. I bring this conversation back to the importance of a screen shot and suggest that students simply take an isolated screen shot and paste the image into whatever document they need.
I also highlight the comment, resolve and reopen feature in docs. During the Group Note Work section of class, I try to comment on student work:
Here students can quickly see my highlighted comment and can reply to my comment or click resolve if they think they have addressed my concern. I then get a little check mark and an email indicating the comment was taken care of. If I think there is still an issue I can always reopen the comment, but as a class we discuss the merits of this system. As a teacher I can quickly reach out to groups and see how they are doing. As I teacher I can easily give personalized feedback. As a student my class gets direct feedback and a chance to respond or ask for clarification. In many ways it organizes the teacher student conversations we have every day and sets us up for great follow up conversations. I bring their notes home and give more comments that will start the next class. I might share a particularly interesting or common type of comment that everyone can relate to or learn from.