Teaching History Note Taking
Our first lesson about America’s colonization this week was about Roanoke, the lost colony. While reading my students the story from Brooke Coleman’s Roanoke: The Lost Colony, I asked them to take notes, a skill we are trying to develop in our class to become better listeners. Some students have a really hard time taking notes from things they are hearing, so to help, I had a student who is stronger in this area take his notes on the white board up front so others could see what types of things were important and how to record them. Afterwards, I asked them to read the story in their history book, remembering to add key names and dates to their notes.
The next day I took my my students to the computer lab and asked them to type up the story as best they could using only their notes. For some it was quite easy; for many it was difficult and slow. I modified the instructions for my English Language Learners to that they only had to tell the story in five sentences. The others I reminded just to tell me the story as best as they could and not worry about knowing it all.
On the third day, we added what I call a “story topper” to deepen their interest in the story. For this part of the project we cut open and folded both ends of toilet paper rolls to use a tree trunks.
After coloring them in and adding the letters carved on the tree in the story, we glued it to a piece of construction paper. Then, using slightly wrinkled tissue paper, we glued the tops of the trees on. As a finishing touch, we added hand-drawn trees to create depth.
This “topper” was then glued to their printed story and they were hung in the hall. I also displayed color photos of the story’s main characters along with additional books on the topic.
Learning how to really study, to take notes, review things and commit them to memory, is such an important skill, especially as students advance in grades. Reading my students’ versions of the story is also helpful to me because I can see what is and isn’t clear in their thinking and address these in a review lesson.