Teachers for Teachers | Mentor Teaching Moves: When They Build It… The Impact of Students Developing Note-Taking Systems #T4TMoments
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Mentor Teaching Moves: When They Build It… The Impact of Students Developing Note-Taking Systems #T4TMoments

“Tell me about these notes in your reading notebook,” we ask a fourth grader during a reading conference.

Well, I am getting ready to meet with my book club.  Here are my big ideas. Now I need to decide which idea I want to talk about with my book club.”

How did you decide to organize your notes this way?” we inquire.

I like putting a star next to my ideas so I can see them.  The rest of my notes are quotes from the text. Before my book club meets, I look over my notes to think about what I want to talk about with my group.  The stars help me determine my big idea. Once I have a big idea I reread my notes to find important evidence. I use the quotes to show my group where or why I had a particular thought or idea.”

After this conference ended, we reflected on the amount of ownership this student had over his note-taking process.  He had developed his own system, and therefore his notes were purposeful.

To learn how to become effective note-takers, students need to make decisions about the way they will take notes.  When students create their own columns or charts, they must think about what they are writing, and how to organize their thinking on the page.  This process helps students carefully consider, why they are taking notes and how they will use them.  It also helps them learn that note-taking is flexible.  Readers revise their note-taking system depending on their purpose and based on its effectiveness.

Students need many opportunities to plan how to organize their thinking.  When they create a box that is too small to record their ideas they realize, “Hey, I need to leave myself more room for my writing.”  When they forget to write down page numbers for quotes, they learn, “It is hard to go back and find places in the text.  I better mark them the first time.” And when students forget to write notes or write too many notes they think, “How can I focus my notes so I can spend most of my time reading?”

Empowering students to develop their own note-taking systems, rather than completing formatted graphic organizers is a mentor teaching move.  When students set up the system themselves, we get a glimpse into how they organize their thinking, and this knowledge helps us understand how they process text.  This insight allows us to support them in taking purposeful notes and using these notes to share their thinking with others.


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