The skill that most students lack in middle school and high school, in every class, is how to take notes.
So often, they are entirely lost.
Many teachers expect them to have a blank notebook page, watch a Powerpoint, and listen to the teacher lecture. And somehow know what is important enough to write down. And physically write while trying to listen.
This is mentally exhausting for students to do for more than a few minutes at a time, especially for students who are anxious to get everything down on paper in order to succeed, and so often students struggle all year, year after year, doing the same thing.
A dear friend of mine used to call this teaching style: “Death by Powerpoint”.
I truly believe that students benefit most from an interactive style of questioning, where the teacher does NOT lecture and give them all the answers, but leads the class through questions like “what if’s” and “what’s next” and “why do you think this is”.
Students truly need help learning how to listen and decide what is important enough to write it down.
I have found in the past that the best way to help students take notes is to give them a notes packet for each unit with headers and a list of topics I’m going to cover in class: basically a space that helps them be focused and intentional about their note-taking.
Every year, I have improved my notes packets and class discussions to better help my students learn without being overwhelmed while taking notes. This year, I’m creating these doodle diagrams so that students have pictures to help them really visualize each concept in their notes. They’re like miniature, notebook-sized anchor charts! You can get a free sample set by filling in your email at the bottom of this post.
Here are some teaching tips for using this type of notes in the classroom!
* Use the right format for each student.
I decide which note format would be best for my students. I am creating pages with more or less text, so I can customize it for each student or class, depending on their ability to take notes and how much time I want to spend on the lesson. Some students/classes really like to draw their own pictures; some don’t!
* Give them a packet of structured pages for the whole unit.
I print and copy a packet of the unit’s doodle diagrams and have them stapled before I give them to my students. Students are much less likely to lose a packet and they are more likely to get the notes when they are absent from a friend, because they see that it’s blank in their packet!
* Give them a model to follow!
I write as we go each concept, with my own student copy on an ELMO projector, so they can see what you’re writing, what you’re highlighting, how you want them to take notes and process the information.
* Use Powerpoint minimally.
I do use my computer projector to show pictures or short video clips or other multimedia that I find online to supplement the doodle diagram pages. I use very little text on the screen.
* Do NOT give them the answers!
As I go through the lesson, I never just fill in the blank on the doodle diagram. I ask questions continually. For example, I ask students what they think are the characteristics of life, what they think will happen next in this diagram, what they think is the best way to summarize this video clip they just saw on transcription or translation. And we fill it in together.
* I encourage students to doodle!
These pages are designed to have places where students can fill in borders, fill in letters, color in pictures, and make their own doodles in the white space.
Research shows that students who do this remember more of the material!
Processing the material with the artistic side of their brain can aid in memory. So encourage them to use colored pencils, pens, whatever they would like on their page in the time you working through the page with them.
If you would like to download this free Doodle Diagram page, fill in the form below and you’ll get one sent to you!
Since I began creating these in early 2018, there has been an overwhelming response from teachers who love them! Here are some quotes from teachers who are using them in their own classroom:
“I have purchased many products from Mrs. Lau and am looking forward to using the Doodles. I LOVE her graphics – they are clear and easy to understand. I teach many different high school levels of Biology and find them applicable to all of the levels…”
“I can’t say enough good things about these doodle diagrams. They are great for differentiation, pacing, easy to use and they make lesson planning a breeze. My student’s understanding of the topics has come more quickly and I have been able to go a little further with the topics since I started using these. They match well with the whole year bundle of biology homework. I am already excited to start next year using this bundle from the beginning.”
“I absolutely love these! I wish I would have had something like this when I was a student.”
“These are beautiful and so well done. I love to do these with my students using the document camera.”
“Love these notes. The pictures are so clear and the notes contain everything a regular biology class should know. Easy to differentiate with the different versions of the notes.”
“WOW! I am so excited about this bundle! I love doodle notes and am looking forward to using these in my biology class. Love the quality and options with these. Wish you had a physical science bundle. :)”
(I am actually creating a chemistry one now! More details to come.)