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Note Taking Experiment

January 11, 2014
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Last semester I tried to upgrade my note taking activities and actually work on note taking in a more systematic way. When I put together my original ebook for the communication class I teach, I gave overviews of some note taking strategies such as the Cornell System, outlining, mapping, and sentences. However, I didn’t do much in class. I simply assigned students to watch the assigned TED talk for the class and take notes. One page of notes can be used when I show the video in class and give the test on the video.

This approach was working well enough, but I wanted to do more and have struggled to find ways to make note taking engaging. Last semester I came up with an idea that is probably not original, but it does enable me to attempt to get students to be more analytical in taking notes. One problem students seem to have is with separating supporting details from main ideas. In other words, everything has the same importance. I want them to develop some skill in distinguishing these types of information. Also, I want them to get a sense of how a speaker shapes his or her discourse in a speech.

I took a few TED talks that I have been using and edited them to include just the initial few minutes of the talk. I labeled the parts of one of the edited talks with story (since the speaker used stories to begin and reinforce the main idea), main idea, supporting detail, and transition. Then I took a couple more talks, edited them down to about five minute and inserted numbers using the captioning in MovieMaker. I made a handout with the numbers and the choices of main, supporting detail, transition, and restatement. The students watch the video and circle the part of the speech they identify. This activity led to some discussion about identifying main ideas and details.

This semester I am going to push it a little further. I took a TED talk by Angela Lee Duckworth and devised a time line for the speech dividing it into 6 parts.

The speech is six minutes long and seems to break into 6 distinct parts. I plan to have the students first summarize the parts by stopping at the point where a new part begins. Next, I will show the video again and have them identify the elements such as main idea, supporting details, recommendation, reporting research results, and drawing conclusions. Finally, I plan to have them identify the clues that help them distinguish the different parts. If this works, i.e., if students seem to show that they can do at least many of the tasks with success, I will repeat this with a couple more similar activities during the semester. I hope that as I do it and with feedback from the students I can improve their learning experience with note taking.

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