One new skill my class has been focusing on recently is taking notes. Elementary school isn’t usually a time when people think of note-taking as an important skill, but then again, the kids have been taking notes in one way or another for years: writing an interesting fact from Time for Kids on a post-it, writing down where they left off in a project so they can remember what they were doing when they return to it, or helping to record a discussion or story on the board are all ways of taking notes.
Formal note-taking, like writing outlines, and more advanced note-taking, like tracking a class discussion, can wait for later years; but several kinds of notes are useful to our students now. Recently, we’ve practiced taking notes while listening to a Time for Kids article read aloud and while listening to a friend read a short story they’ve written. We’ve also been taking notes on the biographies our book groups have been reading as we go along, and now we’re finally seeing that pay off as it makes writing book reports easy. Each time we’ve practiced, the kids have had a chance to reflect on what the process felt like. Some say they find it interesting or soothing; others find it difficult and say they struggle to focus on two things at once.
This, for me, is an example of how a skill that is defined by adults as something young people are “supposed to learn” is best introduced in a context wherein the students can immediately see its use. My class has shown a great interest in this process of taking notes, even when they find it difficult — because, I think, they can see immediately how it applies to what they want to do. They have enough creative and engaging work that they want to keep track of that the skill of keeping notes on it is immediately relevant to their lives.