Into the Curriculum
School Library Monthly/Volume XXVII, Number 4/January 2011
Nudging toward Inquiry: Extracting Relevant Information and Note Taking
compiled by Kristin Fontichiaro
Kristin Fontichiaro is a clinical assistant professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI. She edited 21st-Century Learning in School Libraries (Libraries Unlimited, 2009) and blogs for SLM (http://blog.schoollibrarymedia.com). Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Common Core State Standards Initiative (2010) includes a renewed focus on literacy in the content area, giving librarians a new opportunity to use note taking to model and guide students in reading comprehension strategies such as finding the main idea, summarization, and synthesis. For example, what
- are the key ideas?
- does the data in this graphic say?
- idea(s) relate(s) best to my work?
- new questions arise?
- don’t I understand?
- background information am I missing?
- should I rethink as a result of what I’ve just reviewed?
- comprehension gaps remain?
- is my next step?
As students transition to note taking, librarians can demonstrate that taking notes is more than copying, highlighting, or recording "the answer." Librarians can encourage students to make notes that are:
- Abbreviated, "caveman language" summaries of relevant ideas (Preddy 2008),
- Validations or refuting of current understanding, or
- New questions and “leads.”
Note taking is a time to gather, exclaim, envision, question, and backtrack. Yoffe (2009) reports that our dopamine (pleasure) chemical is set off not when we find but in the anticipation of finding.
ResponsesCompiled via the SLM blog (http://blog.schoollibrarymonthly.com)
Map Their Thinking
My savior has been Thinking Maps: visual teaching tools similar to graphic organizers. Unlike graphic organizers, thinking maps are a set of eight maps specific to the students’ thought process. The maps help students focus while maintaining freedom of thought. In my favorite assignment, students brainstorm a topic or question using a circle map. Later, they look up information about their question. On their circle map, they record their frame of reference, circle verified information, cross off disproved information, and add new learnings. Flow maps help students track what happened and how they can reword it. The thinking maps' visual nature keeps students engaged, focused, and organized.
—Deborah Rinio, Joy Elementary School, Fairbanks, AK
Put Reading Comprehension at the Forefront
Adrienne Gear's Nonfiction Reading Power (Stenhouse, 2008) has proved invaluable. Third grade readers/researchers focus on finding keywords and determining importance. I begin by displaying my purse's contents, asking students to identify the most important items to take on a walk. Often they say, "Your keys." I tie this into locating keywords in a nonfiction passage. Later, we discuss summarizing and how to put these keywords into original sentences.
Another useful tool is the unit of the mini-inquiry in Harvey Daniels and Stephanie Harvey's Comprehension and Collaboration: Inquiry Circles in Action (Heinemann, 2009), especially the form with places to jot down sources, take notes, and recording personal thinking.
Assessments include observation, grading "finding keywords" worksheets, observation of mini-inquiry notes, and a rubric for their mini-inquiry project.
—Susan Landis Eley, Hillside Elementary School, Mt. Laurel, NJ
Stop Losing Notes!
Students were constantly losing notebook pages and references. We tried Inspiration instead, so students could brainstorm their plan and organize their thoughts, then flip to the outline view to see if their order works. They added a section for their references. No more lost papers! That was the how. Here’s the why: students need to learn to use technology from brainstorm to evaluation. Inspiration gives them space to think about their ideas, share, get peer feedback, and reflect.
For those creating a brochure as their demonstration of learning, we also used Wallwisher.com to organize the layout. It was easy to move the "pieces" around on the Smartboard to design an effective lay-out.
There was ongoing informal assessment, as well as discussion to check for understanding and classwide conversations in which students questioned each other about pieces or ideas. —Liz Deskins, Hilliard (OH) City Schools
Use a Manipulative
I used highlighting tape strips (available in various widths and colors) to assist students in finding keywords or phrases in print text. This is especially effective for students with special needs. The tape peels off without harming the pages, though they should remove it as soon as they complete the assignment. You can also relate this to a whiteboard or e-book highlighting feature.
—Ann Mansfield, Mackin Education Resources, Burnsville, MN
PowerPoint—a little tired as presentation tool—has a Note Page that is invaluable for organizing thinking, identifying keywords, and making notes for presentations.
Have students write directly into Notes (beneath the slide). After drafting their speaking notes, have them select key words or phrases to place in the slide. (For design tips, try http://bit.ly/vancouverppt). Use in-text citation, preparing a bibliography slide later. When presenting, students print the Notes Page. Skip the PowerPoint but use the notes!
Alternatively, students can cut-and-paste a passage (and citation) into Notes, then write a short summary or make notes. This is an excellent way to guide them through plagiarism concerns. Use informal evaluation until they are practiced at writing summaries, notes, or precis.
—Moira Ekdahl, Teacher-Librarian/Mentor, Vancouver (BC) School District, Canada
When used as an intermediary tool, graphic organizers can help students analyze their notes, giving them the opportunity to read, reflect, and select relevant notes from those they have taken. Various graphic organizers can classify and label information, separate pro and con arguments, identify cause and effect, distinguish problems from solutions, describe emerging themes, identify patterns and perspectives, and extend or elaborate on a fact or idea. This acts as a buffer that minimizes plagiarism. A Venn Diagram sorts notes by similarity or difference. Columns can divide their notes by comparing and contrasting. A timeline chronologically orders notes. The graphic developed for each kind of analysis can structure thinking for students so that they interpret, rather than reiterate, the information.
The questions students ask as they review their notes can be formative assessments that indicate the progress of their understanding and interpretation. Some questions are: How can I represent/display it? look at it differently? imagine what if? make connections? define it? improve it? predict what’s next? put it together? fix or overcome it? classify or categorize it? find exceptions? take it apart? determine what’s wrong? solve it? explain it?
—Carol Gordon, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Give Kids Transferable Skills
Many instructors rely on the same old notecard stack, outline on the board, or dreaded PowerPoint slide printout. Maybe it's time to try something new. Research is increasingly moving online. Why not use an online note taking tool?
Diigo.com (free) enables users to interact with a Web site itself, instead of copying notes down into notebooks or other documents. Students can highlight text and add virtual sticky notes either by attaching them to highlighted text or letting them “float” on the Web page.
If you're thinking, "So what? I was highlighting and writing margin notes years ago," hang on. With Diigo you can create groups, sharing bookmarks and annotation with group members. Members can comment on other group members' notes. Presto—note taking becomes collaborative. Think of the possibilities!
Diigo's best feature is that the basic competencies of note taking remain paramount: recognizing main points, analyzing how they can support arguments, summarizing, and reacting to texts. These are all good, transferrable skills, folks. So, try Diigo!
—Maria Kramer, Graduate Student, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Make Note Taking Mobile and Meaningful
Last year, I introduced Evernote to a group of tenth grade students in the Media 21 learning and technology integration project to help them organize and transact with traditional and nontraditional sources, including database articles, Web-based news articles, videos, photos, and interviews. Students liked the ease and flexibility moving between Evernote's smartphone apps, desktop client, and Web site.
Features include capturing handwritten notes, importing graphic organizers, clipping, working with notes, tagging, modifying note sources/URLs, creating and organizing virtual notebooks, sharing notebooks publicly, and synchronizing.
This year, to my delight, several students used Evernote intrinsically—without prompting! I also noticed some teaching their peers, who jumped headfirst into Evernote, too. Seeing this was a most gratifying career experience! Learn more (http://theunquietlibrarian.wordpress.com).
—Buffy J. Hamilton, Creekview High School, Canton, GA
Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects. Common Core State Standards Initiative, 2010. http://www.corestandards.org/assets/CCSSI_ELA%20Standards.pdf (accessed December 3, 2010).
Preddy, Leslie. "Cavemen Took Notes?" School Library Media Activities Monthly 25, no. 4, (December 2008): 22-23.
Yoffe, Emily. "Seeking: How the Brain Hard-wires Us to Love Google, Twitter, and Texting. And Why That’s Dangerous." Slate. 12 August 2009. http://www.slate.com/id/2224932 (accessed December 3, 2010).