Four Square Notes

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SWBAT write notes about the information they read in an informational text by using squares as a graphic organizer.

Big Idea

This Four Square note model is one any student can create with a piece of paper. It requires folding and labeling the squares for their notes. Students will practice labeling, and through guided practice fill in their squares with notes from text.

Opening and Folding

5 minutes

Note taking is going to be very important as our students move through the upper grades. This lesson is to help them learn how to create their own graphic organizer using a regular piece of paper. To begin they will all need a piece of paper, lined or not. 

I explain that they are going to make their own note template, and that they can use this anytime. I ask the class to think about how they will use notes in middle, high school, and even college. This gets some excitement going. I ask them to pretend now that they are in high school and that they are going to have to take notes in history. This creates an almost instant buy in with almost all of my class. 

I ask them to get ready by designing their note template with me. I ask them to fold their paper in half and then half again. This way they have four squares. 

Labeling the Squares

5 minutes

I double check everyone's paper. I noticed one student is a bit behind so I trade him my example for his paper. I quickly make a new one. I often do this for students with special needs, I do not want them to be frustrated with folding when the lesson is more important. 

The next step is to label the squares. I use the document camera and place a 1, 2, 3, and 4 in each square. Numbering is not the only thing that we need to do. We need to also make sure that they are labeled with good headings. Without good headings we might not be able skim our notes when we need to find the facts we need. This, I explain, might be what we need to do is skim fast if you are allowed to use your notes on a test. 

I ask a probing question to see if they have any ideas on how we might label our boxes. I get some very creative responses, but not the one that I had in mind. I ask them to open their history book to the start of the section we are going to read. I ask them what they notice, looking at the text features. They begin rattling off the text features, which is a great sign that they remember so many. 

When a students says bold words, I make an AH HA exclamation. I ask how bold words might help us and why does the author use them. In box one, I add the word vocabulary. W then discuss the importance of new vocabulary and agree it is something needed for our notes. 

Next, we use the sub-headings of the different sections to label the other three boxes. To help them understand this, I tell them that using the headings and sub-headings make our note taking easier because the author already divided the details into sections. I also pointed out that some text sections might need more than four boxes. 

Read and Record

15 minutes

To record our notes from our reading, we will do this as a class. I will model with the first section. I read and show my thinking. I model checking for understanding and rereading. I want them to see how I make sure I understand the text. I then ask them to help me with the key details. I then model what I heard from them, but I show them how I use the author's words for my notes. I then write the key details in paraphrase form into my notes. I found that I needed to remind them what paraphrasing was and point out how I modeled it.

For the next two sections, we read and take notes together. We read, ask clarifying questions, and decide what we should put in our notes. I remind them that they do not need to copy what I write, but make it their own. For my students with special needs or ELL copying from me is fine. i might ask them to only choose a few details to put into their own words. 

Checking Our Squares

5 minutes

Before closing our book, I want to check my notes and make sure I didn't leave anything out. I go back through the text skimming and reading more carefully any parts that might have been more difficult for me. For this part, I am modeling and I ask them to watch and try to decide what I am doing and why. 

I go back through the whole text, and have them check their notes with me. When I finish skimming, I ask them if we need to add anything. I hope that at least one thing might come up, and today a student does want to add something. We discuss the add and as a a class decide to put it into our notes. 

The next part is checking to see of our notes work. They need to put their books away for this. I then begin to ask questions from the text and ask them to use their notes to answer.