Reflection: Adjustments to Practice Source #1: Analyzing the Author's Organization Cornerstone - Section 2: Using Reference Sheets to Help Analyze An Author's Organizational Structure


Students are supposed to take notes.


Students won't learn if they don't take notes.


Students will have to take notes when they get to high school.  When they get to college.  When they get a job or career. 


Right?  When was the last time you took formal notes for your job?  I haven't done it in years.  I've jotted down information on handouts. I've recorded information I'll need later. But I haven't taken notes.  


But they're going to have to learn how to listen to a professor speak and write down the important stuff in their notes!  They're going to have to learn to recognize what's important and what's not!  Yes, they will.  But the way we do notes?  Presenting the information, telling students what to write and what they don't need to write?  Is that achieving the goal? I don't think it is.   I also can't find a common core standard that asks students to take notes. 


I see standards that ask students to analyze main ideas, conduct short research projects, gather relevant information from sources.  If we're having students take notes, we're focusing on rote memorization, which is necessary.  Students do need to memorize the definition of a simile, verb, heading, and insert a thousand more words here.  But we, as teachers, have been asking students to write notes for years and it hasn't affected scores much.  If we keep doing what we've been doing with no noticeable differences, maybe we need to change our approach.  And that's difficult for me to say because I've worked on my school's literacy committee for three years and helped train teachers on how to use the Cornell note method with students.   It certainly has increased the amount of reading and writing students at my school are doing in content areas, but we certainly shouldn't stop there. 


And in terms of language arts?  Are notes really the best way to teach theme, organization, and author's purpose?  Won't students learn that more if students are actually reading?  Including reading reference sheets over and over again?  Consulting those reference sheets, reading the information on it over and over again?  Writing about what they read about, over and over again? 


Maybe it's okay to have different approaches in different subject areas.  Maybe Cornell notes are a great method for science and social studies.  It's always seemed a bit forced in the subject of language arts, so maybe notes aren't the way to go.  Maybe we have to change the way we've been doing things.  Maybe we need to reflect on why we're doing what we're doing and if that's really preparing our students for lives and careers.




  Reference Sheets
  Adjustments to Practice: Reference Sheets
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Source #1: Analyzing the Author's Organization Cornerstone

Unit 9: What Happened to Emmett Till?: Analyzing Multiple Sources to Discover History
Lesson 2 of 10

Objective: Students will be able to analyze how an author uses nonfiction organizational techniques to achieve a purpose.

Big Idea: In which we learn about history to understand an author's motivation for writing literature.

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