Trying out something I learned over the summer

Posted: October 12, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

So, I’ve been thinking about the strategies that I learned in my 2 days of reading PD at the end of the school year last year. One of the strategies that our facilitator shared with us was having students take mind map type notes as they read in social studies. Although our facilitator talked about putting the finished sheets up in the room as the endpoint, I have plans beyond that.

We had some reading about archaeology to do. I began by putting students in groups of 4 or 5. Each group had a table, big paper, markers, a book per person. They had a short reading assignment and I said they would be reading and drawing/writing notes. I modeled this first, talking through both my thinking about the reading and my drawing/writing.

Then student gave it a try. First they read and made their notes. Then they shared in their groups, circled common ideas and made a center box with repeated ideas and key ideas. Finally each group shared their central ideas with the class.

Looking at the list we generated, I noticed that many of them had been sidetracked by the fun tidbits in the reading at the expense of the bigger ideas. Of the list on the board only about half were what one would label as important ideas. So, I directed everyone to the helpful headings that were also on the pages we had read. I wrote those on the board next to the list of ideas. I said that I thought that if the headings were the big topics then our facts should help us understand those ideas. As a class, we looked at the list on the board and the list of headings and chose the facts that were most important.

This was a really useful activity.

Not only was it a different strategy for generating notes, but also it showed so clearly how it was easy to be distracted by the “sparkly” tidbits in the passage, just like early archaeologists who were looking more for treasure than information. What a happy connection there, no? I really pushed this connection and we talked about how that fun fact is there to grab your attention, but shouldn’t distract you from the big ideas, rather it should help us remember.

I asked the students what they thought of the strategy, since it was not one I had used before. Many people were very positive about it. They felt it took the pressure off having to summarize in words all the time. And, I would say that most folks were on task and putting forth good effort. Obviously there is room for improvement, but it was a first for them too. Certainly something to do again.

As I said at the beginning, I have bigger plans for the papers than bulletin board decoration, although they will be useful there. Once we get the hang of it more, I think the plan will be to use this as a first step to generating a set of class notes on reading. And, since we are using Edmodo I can add a document to the library and everyone can use it.

I think it’s all going to come together nicely.

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