Reflection: Developing a Conceptual Understanding Peppered Moths - Section 2: Simulation


If your students are anything like mine, even after you have repeatedly asked them to write notes and modeled the note-taking during a lecture or while using an interactive, you might have found blank notebooks. It took me several years to understand that, while middle-schoolers could be good note-takers, they often become too engrossed in what they are doing, or they simply believe that taking notes is a wasted effort since they will be able to remember the lecture or activity. Summarizing on the spot is hard and requires mental focus, something that students at this developmental level often do not posses. This is why I often use guided notes during lectures or when working with interactives.

Guided notes are teacher prepared handouts that summarize the key points presented during a lecture, reading or interactive. Blanks are left within notes, where the students are expected to insert a definition, key piece of information or fact. As the students work through the assignment, they fill in the blanks with content.

To prepare the guided notes for an interactive, I first work through the interactive, taking my own notes.  With those notes, I type up the first draft of the guided notes. I work through the interactive again, with my notes, adding other pieces or deleting redundancies. After that, I read through the notes, this time placing the blanks that I want students to fill in and adding any question I want the students to be able to answer. Finally, with the drafted guided notes, I work through the interactive again, thinking "will student A be able to answer this question or fill in this blank?" (Student A could be one of my ELLs or my special needs), and also making sure that my notes align with what is being presented. Although this process might seem a little laborious, I find that if I do not run through several times I might place blanks or questions that skip over parts or make the mistake of blanking too much.

This is one of those strategies that benefits all students, but particularly your ELLs and special needs that often need the extra support. Since interactive often seem like games to students, it also helps to hold them accountable for the learning, and not just for having "played" with the interactive.

In this video a couple students talk about the usefulness of the guided notes for them.


  Developing a Conceptual Understanding: Guided Notes
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Peppered Moths

Unit 8: Evolution
Lesson 6 of 17

Objective: Students will be able to describe the importance of coloration in avoiding predation, relate environmental change to changes in organisms and explain how natural selection causes populations to change.

Big Idea: Models can be helpful to describe patterns in natural processes.

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