Thursday, September 5, 2019

The 5 steps of Focused Note-taking (with Google Slides!)

For years, the AVID instructional framework recommended a specific note-taking strategy, called Cornell Notes, to support students in processing the information they learn in class.  Recently, however, AVID revised the note-taking recommendations to be more broad rather than solely focusing on Cornell Notes. The new recommendation is that educators teach students to use a focused note-taking strategy.  This is fantastic because it allows for student choice and voice in how they process their learning and can incorporate technology in powerful ways.  This blog post will overview the 5 steps of focused note-taking along with some digital strategies that align with each step.

Step 1: Taking the notes

This is an obvious first step!  In this phase, students are capturing information using a method they feel most comfortable.  If students are new to taking notes, very young, or have instructional accommodations, teachers can just share the notes and skip step 1.  Plenty of learning, as you’ll see, happens in Steps 2 - 5.


Obviously, there are many ways to support students with a focused note taking strategy. This example, using Google slides, just offers a support that can be highly visual and very powerful with sharing, linking, and commenting capabilities. Share your favorite focused note taking strategy in the comments!



Step 2: Processing notes
Notes are meaningless if you don’t do something with them!  In this phase, students are asked to review, reflect, and manipulate the information in their notes.  

In Google slides, students can adjust text formatting adding highlights, underlines, or colored fonts using the toolbar, but they can also easily add headings via their slide format and paste in images from the toolbar to highlight key information.



Step 3: Connecting Thinking
In this step, we ask students to think deeply about the information they are learning and connect it to other content knowledge.  

Technology adds a great value to this step because students can share their notes with a peer to see if they generated the same connections and key concepts as another student.  They can also easily hyperlink to additional content (their previous notes or other media) within their digital notes.  Using Google slides, arrows and lines can be drawn to visually represent connections.  Commenting features can also be used for students to track questions they have as they process their notes.



Step 4: Summarizing and Reflecting on Learning
For step four, students create summaries of their learning.  Technology adds value because students can easily share and compare their summaries.  In the example using Google Slides, students can use the presenter notes section to write a summary of their learning.


Step 5: Applying Learning The final step of focused note taking takes place outside of Google slides. This is where the student is able to use the notes to apply the learning in an authentic context. By now the notes have been reviewed by the student multiple times with additional layers of learning and understanding being added in each step. In this example, students could use the notes to create their own models of different cell types or use the notes during a lab activity where they classify organisms seen under the microscope.

Obviously, there are many ways to support students with a focused note taking strategy. This example, using Google slides, just offers a support that can be highly visual and very powerful with sharing, linking, and commenting capabilities. Share your favorite focused note taking strategy in the comments!





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