Color Coded Notetaking

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SWBAT extract relevant information pertinent to research topic.

Big Idea

How can color coded index cards organize information for research? Students use various text features to locate key facts and organize information to produce reports on a given topic.


20 minutes

Our class has been introduced to the Cornell Notetaking System (click on link to view lesson). Now, we discuss alternate ways of organizing our notes.  I take out a stack of colored index cards and ask students to remember our first Biography research on Mae C. Jemison (Click link to see lesson). Students recall how we organized the categories of the Biography research:  Early Life, Middle Life, Later Life, and Interesting Facts.  I ask students how we can organize the color cards to make taking notes easier.  Students make the connection that each category can be correlated to a color of the index card.  For example, all information about Early life will be recorded on the blue index card, information about middle life will be recorded on the pink index card, etc.

I tell the class that this is called "Color Coded Notetaking."   We make the connection that it is similar to a graphic organizer because it is a great visual way to organize. Reading carefully to grasp concepts in complex text requires concrete ways to decontextualize the content. The emphasis of Common Core is for writing to be grounded from textual evidence, not solely prior knowledge. The more information gathered on a sub-topic, the deeper students are delving into this topic.  I encourage students to record as many facts possible for each sub-topic when I send them off to take notes.  However, I remind them to record their sources on the back each notecard, following guidelines on the References Templates: Book Reference Template and Online Reference template.



20 minutes

I ask students to work in their cooperative groups and asked students to record the information gathered for our Mae C Jemison research (click link to see this lesson) on the color coded note cards. I decided to start with something familiar and scaffold so that students could practice the new color coded system.  In order to accomplish complex tasks in my instruction, I want students to access prior knowledge and scaffold into more rigorous tasks.  Students need to start at their independent level of learning, which for my students is their experience with using a template and guiding questions for the Mae C. Jemison research.

Creating a tactile graphic organizer gained positive feedback from students.  We folded a piece of construction paper into four sections to create a Note Sorting Mat.  Each section was labeled with a topic of the research.  Students sorted the cards matching not just colors, but also topics.  We do a lot of sorting using digital graphic organizers on our Promethean board.  This is another way to kinesthetically use graphic organizers.

Reflecting on Learning

20 minutes

I ask students to share the information gathered on their color coded cards.  Students also reflect on how this system is helpful to their research.  We make connections to the purpose of using color coded research to real world situations.  That way, students can see the practical application of this process.