Flipping the Classroom … with note-taking
Notes in science can be very scaffolded. In 7th grade we start the year off with very basic note taking skills: copying down notes from a PowerPoint, guided notes with fill-in-the-blank, Cornell notes, etc. We talk about the importance of taking good notes, and why those specific topics and ideas are important enough to be notes. We also go over the expectations of how to keep notes organized and when to be copying information down, and when to be listening. As the year progresses, I try to push students to do more of the heavy lifting when it comes to capturing the big ideas and important information into notes. This transition in note-taking organically brought two key literacy standards to the forefront within my science classroom:
Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.
By the end of grade 8, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 6-8 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
Transitioning to Flipped Note-Taking
When we make this transition from more teacher-directed notes, to more student directed, and eventually entirely student-directed notes there are a lot of different methods to use to get them to be more confident and independent. Here are two examples from the start the year with more teacher-directed notes:
The following are some examples of the transition.
- Taking away the explanations: I will give students simple key words or phrases (up on the board) and they are responsible for writing down the details that are necessary to understand the concepts.
- Another version of taking away the why/how in the note-taking process: I give students a visual or diagram to represent the science concept and they are responsible for giving the explanation and important details.
- Taking away all scaffolds and making students listen: we even have a few instances as we progress through this gradual release of responsibility where it is more of a lecture format and I tell students to be listening for what they think are the important parts and that’s what they need to write down.
All of these progressions have checks for understanding: either checking the content with a neighbor, the teacher (me) putting up the key points after on the board, or whole class discussion/review to make sure we have the necessary points.
Flipping with Note-Taking
Another method I use in my class to switch from teacher-centered to student-centered is giving them all the important content information in a reading and allowing them to extract the information that is needed. This works better for topics that are not too broad in scope. The example below is from a unit when we were working on chemistry and the periodic table of elements. This was review from two years ago for some students, and for other students newer to our school it is content they have never received. When students read they roadmap/annotate on the side of the article (first image below), essentially listing the key points from each paragraph in the margins. This makes it easier for students to synthesize and articulate the key takeaways from the reading (second image below).
Post-Flip Discussions and Readings
Continuing with the assignment above, students came in the next day able to have a prepared discussion and collaboratively complete a table of all the information that can be gained from the Periodic Table (atomic number, atomic mass, element name, element symbol, # of protons, electrons, neutrons). Some students got it quickly and others struggled. Then as a class we worked in partners on a second reading, that has essentially the same content, but went more in depth about the different parts of an atom. The reading also had a number of follow-up questions and tasks to cement the information, including a few questions that required students to make some deductions based off of the information they had. At this point I was able to circulate and work in smaller groups with students who were struggling to get all the information necessary from the readings into their notes. Students who didn’t need any teacher help or guidance could work at their own pace, and check their answers with me when they had finished.
This structure is a great way to give students more of the responsibility for note-taking, use class time for meaningful discussions, and to simultaneously incorporate nonfiction texts into the science classroom. This enabled me to naturally fit in two key literacy standards, while also deepening student ownership over their own learning of scientific content.