Final Review – Incredible Shrinking Notes

I don’t know where I first read about the shrinking notes strategy for summarizing.  It was our final lesson and my ELLs just wanted  finals to be over and for school to be out.  I needed an engaging activity to review the themes of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and remembered the shrinking notes.  In groups, students wrote the big ideas of the novel on a large sticky note, narrowed them down to a medium sized notes and finally chose the three most significant ideas on a small post it.  We then had a short discussion on each group’s choices, supporting ideas with textual evidence, of course.

Podcasts #1 – PD Wherever, Whenever

It all began with the New York Times Book Review Podcast.  I always enjoy the key book talk which is an interview with an author or reviewer.  I am reminded of Kelly Gallagher’s rationale for his Article of the Week ; I learn so much and expand my background knowledge.   Invariably there is a section on YA literature which helps me expand my classroom library.  And of course, ‘bestseller news’  adds to my comfort reading list of thriller and crime fiction.

Having got hooked on the podcast, I am slowly developing my playlist which is mostly PD.

At last I am putting voices to some of my favorite PD teacher leaders.



I have added:

Penny Kittle’s Stories from the Teaching Life

The Book Love Foundation Podcast

ASCD’s Learn Teach Lead

Vicki Davis’ Every Classroom Matters

Larry Ferlazzo’s Bam! Radio Classroom Q and A

I have listened to Dave Stuart Jr. interview  Kelly Gallagher and Dave’s next interview is with Larry Ferlazzo.

What strikes me as I listen to the talks is the energy and empathy of these teachers.

However, to paraphrase Kelly Gallagher, when I listen to podcast in my car it is ‘1st draft’ listening.  I have not discovered how to  drive, listen and take notes at the same time.  I have a feeling I had better not.  So very often I take vintage style notes during the ‘2nd draft’ listening. Then I can concentrate on the word with pen and notebook in hand.


How do you remember the big ideas of your podcasts?



Visual Note Taking

“Please can we do something fun?”

This is a student’s familiar plea,  especially when it’s the last block of the day.

The students answered their own question at 3:00pm.

I teach an intensive skills class to 9th graders that only lasts a quarter.  One of our units is on the importance of visual literacy and today I planned a lesson on visual note taking.  I followed Vicki Davis’ lesson plan.  The students were hooked.  When I handed out the white sheets of paper and they chose their markers; the students were as apprehensive as I am when it comes to sketchnoting.  “I can’t draw”.  I quoted what I’d read in an article on sketchnoting for teachers, and told them confidently that if they can draw stick figures and arrows they are well on their way to taking good visual notes.

We discussed the what, why and how ( a great idea from Ross Morrison McGill’s 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers) of  note taking; and a couple of students groaned “Cornell Notes.”  (I didn’t want to spoil their afternoon ‘fun’ by telling them that that was the next strategy we’d be tackling.)

As Davis suggests in her post, the kids watched the following TED talk and sketched their notes.

Yes, they did have fun and were proud of their stick figures, images, arrows, symbols and choice of colors.

Low Tech Notes

LI was looking through my twitter feed about 10 minutes before my ELLs arrived in class when I read the following:

Although the students resist, I  insist they keep an idea/thought/interactive notebook.

I always stress that  note taking is one of the essential skills they’ll need in high school and college.  They practice Cornell, discussion and even sketch note taking in the hope that they  find a system that works best for them.   All notes are handwritten.

For this morning’s warm up, I projected and read  an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, written only yesterday,  with up to date research on the benefits of written rather than typed notes. We had an interesting discussion about low distractions such as drawing and doodling.  I explained that according to research, that also helps you think.

It appears that I am not the only teacher who insists on hand written notes.  Their social studies teacher has the same idea.

How do you teach note taking?

Film English

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