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Teaching Strategies: Getting to the Point

From the Desk of Lynn Hill


Good teaching cannot be reduced to techniques; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher.

~Parker J Palmer, The Courage to Teach

Teachers Do Make a Difference

Observing the bowling coach and his wife, I couldn’t help but think about another skill that effective teachers use- summarizing and note taking strategies.  Watching the wife take notes, draw pictures and truly make an attempt to synthesize the information coming from her husband created a focal point of concentration for her. Even on the rare instances when he didn’t accompany her, she still displayed the same intensity while applying strategies and writing down each delivery results. She has been interesting to observe and has certainly improved her game by being such a dutiful student!

Typically, in the classroom, regardless of grade levels, effective note taking is still a cumbersome task for some students.  Many will rewrite or reword information from a passage read without attempting to synthesize the information.  Some students will copy almost verbatim with few changes, others will take few notes and still others will write every word spoken by the teacher.  For students to become better note takers and to summarize more effectively, they must be taught to:

  • Delete unimportant information
  • Substitute information
  • Keep important information
  • Analyze at a deep level to discern which of these options to choose
  • Know structure of presented information to determine how to best retrieve what is needed

Teachers might want to try this rule based strategy developed by Brown, Campione and Day (1981)

  • Delete unnecessary information
  • Delete repetitive information
  • Substitute super ordinate terms for lists (e.g. flowers for roses, carnations and tulips)
  • Select a topic sentence or invent one if not provided in passage

These rules will provide students the information needed to produce a summary. I like to demonstrate the rules for students by having them read a passage silently, and I do the “think aloud” as we apply the rules for summarizing. We read first to delete any unnecessary information.  I do this visually with students. Then we go back through with a different marker to eliminate any repetitive information.  Thirdly, we look to see if we can categorize any listings and lastly, we find or create a topic sentence for the reading. This activity engages students and forces them to summarize with depth and meaning. Students then practice the same rules with another passage and their own summarization.

Book Suggestions:

Classroom Instruction that Works. Robert Marzano, Debra Pickering and Jane Pollock. Merrill Education/ASCD College Textbook Series


Website Suggestions:

Evernote: http://www.evernote.com/

Dabbleboard: http://www.dabbleboard.com/

MarkUp: http://markup.io/

MyNoteIt: http://www.mynoteit.com/

UberNote: http://www.ubernote.com

Awesome Highlighter: http://www.awesomehighlighter.com/

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