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Teaching Note-Taking Skills: Assessment

Strategies | Choosing Good Lecture Material | Organization | Ideas for Assessment

Idea for Supplementing the Audio Lectures from Textbooks with Visual Cues, Correct Pacing, and Interaction:

The audio lectures that come with listening textbooks are very hard for students to take notes from. Even for a lecture that is "at their level", they often need to listen to it several times before they can have a passable set of notes. This is especially true for the intermediate and high-intermediate levels. Teachers spend so much class time just getting students to comprehend the audio lecture, that it takes away from the time they have to focus on actual note-taking skills like organization and shorthand techniques. Such audio lectures are inherently artificial, and don't reflect what students will encounter within a university classroom. There are no visual cues, no interaction, and the pacing is often too fast. In the real world, a professor would not give the same lecture two or three times because the visual cues, pacing and interaction aid comprehension the first time around.

So, what can teachers do? Students have bought the books and some of the book series have interesting lectures. Rather than scrap the lecture, you can decide to supplement the audio lectures with a PowerPoint or notes on the whiteboard. You can add images and keywords according to the level of the students. You can control the pace and how much info you give them according to their level as well.

The actual audio can go too fast to supplement simultaneously in some book series. If this is the case, you may want to play a section of the audio file; then pause it, and re-give the main/important info from that section using your PowerPoint or the whiteboard. There are other variations you can use as well. You can listen to the audio in advance, and take your own notes from it. Then instead of playing the recording for the students, you can give the lecture yourself with a PowerPoint or the whiteboard.

Provide students with the tools to be independent learners [visual cues, correct pacing, and interaction], and the teacher won't have to spend so much time helping them understand the lecture.

Note-taking Idea To Help Students Identify the Topics/Sub-Topics:

In shaping their notes, we ask students to organize the information from the lecture into topics, sub-topics, and supports [details & examples], but just how can students distinguish the difference between topics and supports?
  • Prepare a lecture of your own, and a set of notes for that lecture. Make sure the notes follow a clear organization with topics, sub-topics, and smaller supporting examples and details. The format described in section one above can be used in preparing the lecture and notes.

  • Give students a blank outline of the lecture notes to help them follow along

  • Give the lecture as usual, but omit the main topics and sub-topics. Just give the smaller supporting points and examples

  • After finishing the lecture, divide the students into pairs and ask them to fill in the missing topics/sub-topics based on the supporting examples. Walk around and guiding students with questions as needed, but try to let them figure out as much as they can on their own.

  • After the pair-work time, go over the answers for the missing info together. For each response, be sure to ask why the student chose that as the topic/sub-topic. The goal is for them to be able to use the supporting details/examples to identify the topic/sub-topic. This is a similar process to using the supports to find the main idea in a passage.

*The complexity of the supporting details and examples can increase as the class level increases.

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page last modified: June 27, 2016

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