- Lauren Gehr, an English teacher in South Carolina, has revamped the way her students annotate texts in class to make the activity both more fun and more effective. Instead of asking them to simply underline important parts, students create their own sketches to illustrate concepts or target subjects, and as they read, they use the visuals they've drawn, she wrote in Edutopia.
- Another method is to let students work together on annotating a text, Gehr writes, with students annotating the same text and using their peers' work to discover new perspectives. This can also be applied digitally through tools including Google Docs or Adobe Spark.
- Gehr's students used illustrated annotations while reading “Hamlet," and students drew illustrations for the seven main elements of Shakespearean tragedies. Through this process, she said, students got a more hands-on and engaging experience that led them to think more critically about the text and be more creative during the process.
Effective note-taking has long been seen as a beneficial piece of promoting academic success. By taking notes during class, a student is more likely to be actively paying attention to the lesson that's taking place, and beyond that, they're more likely to be precisely attentive to digesting this information and absorbing it. Even doodling can help people have better recall of what they’re heard. In the long run, note-taking helps students remember more, improves their organization skills and prioritize — all of which promote students to succeed in the classroom.
For decades, taking notes simply meant jotting things down in a notebook during a lecture. But even with the rise of technology, the method has remained popular enough to be integrated into many of the applications and tools that are widely used in schools today. While many still prefer the pen-and-paper method, major tech companies, including Apple, market several note-taking apps — including Google Docs, Evernote and Dropbox Paper — that continue to be downloaded by consumers.
As students get older and encounter more complex subjects, having a good method for organizing and taking notes is more important than ever. And while every student has their own preference and style, having some way to get information down accurately — as well as in a way that can be accessed and understood later — is a common thread for success. But while note-taking remains popular, it's not always done well. If rushed, unorganized or done haphazardly, the effort is likely not going to pay off.
As a result, teachers, curriculum instructors and designers may see advantages to embedding more creative and effective note-taking strategies into classroom learning so students can learn different methods and find one that suits their own needs. In Gehr's example, not only did her illustrated annotation strategy seem to resonate among her students, but it also enabled them to think more critically about what they were reading, collaborate with their peers and have more fun with the exercise.
It may not matter what method a student chooses to help them recall their studies. But giving them time to develop a system — as well as encouraging it after that happens — is a choice educators should consider when assisting students in developing the skills to perform well in the classroom and beyond.