I start this lesson with a Quick Write.
For five minutes, I have students write all of the parts of a story they remember from last year. I have them write any definitions or examples that they remember as well.
After they've had five minutes to write, I ask for a few students to share what they remember. This always turns into a fun walk down memory lane where students tell me about the book and stories that they loved in sixth grade. (I always make sure to tell my 6th-grade colleague how much they enjoyed her class and remember from it!)
I always congratulate my students for remember so much from last year, but remind them that they're 7th graders now. There are new parts of stories to learn and deeper ways to understand what they already know!
In my district, students are taught to use Cornell notes starting in 4th grade. I highly recommend this system of taking notes. If you are not familiar with it, please see the video in this section for a discussion of this note-taking strategy.
That being said, I go through the basic elements of fiction with my students in a lecture format. This reason I do this is two-fold. First, I want them to have a self-created reference to use throughout the year. However, another instructional goal is for students to practice taking notes from a lecture.
Once we have set up our papers for Cornell notes, I remind the kids that these are their notes. They are welcome to abbreviate, sketch, make stars by important information, or draw arrows to connect information and ideas. They are usually pretty excited about this, as work in sixth grade is usually more teacher directed and specific. I have found that giving them wiggle room in their notes, helps them make the connection between their effort to take notes and the quality of the notes as a reference on future assignments.
You will notice in the PowerPoint presentation there are slides that say, "STOP! Take 2 minutes and check your notes with a neighbor." I do this to show students that sharing notes isn't cheating. Sometimes you need to lean on a classmate to see if you're hearing the same information. Comparing notes and studying notes together helps students recall lecture information in any class (college classes are no exception!).
The highlighting, study-question writing, and summary writing portions of Cornell Notes are where I can really see if the students understood the material presented.
There are different ways to go about this, depending on the prior knowledge with which your students enter your class. The goals of these activities lend themselves very well to formative assessment:
I do collect these notes, as they are our first of the year. To make assessing relatively painless, I scan the required portions of the notes to be sure they're there. However, I do read each and every summary. It is in these summaries that I will (or won't) find evidence of understanding.