As mentioned last week, when the kids took their CKE Earth and Space (affiliate link) test they failed miserably, so I set about to teach them how to take notes and reteaching the entire unit. It doesn’t matter if you know how to take a test, if you haven’t taken good notes to study from. We backtracked and I worked through each chapter of the unit with them to teach kids how to take notes, a skill I hadn’t thought to teach in my homeschooling until then.
Here’s what I’ve been doing to teach the kids how to take notes.
Show kids what is important in the lesson
Most textbooks give clues to what they think are important. Teach your kids how to find those things when taking notes.
- look for bolded words
- names of people, battles, peace treaties, locations
- Names of sections
- look at any worksheets or review material ahead of time and write that down
Teach kids how to organize their notes
Once they know what to look for, teach them how to organize their notes. Otherwise, if they’re anything like my kids their notes will be one big block of text, and they won’t be able to find the answers laterHere are
’s the steps I taught my kids, based on how my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Newbury, taught me.
- At the top of your page write the title of the notes you’re taking. I like to center it. That helps me know it’s a completely new topic even if it’s in the middle of the page.
- At the edge of the page (or margin) write definitions if they are not part of a major section or are important topics themselves.
- At the edge of the page (or margin) write section titles and underline them
- indent ideas part of the same topic 2 fingers worth of space (in my giant version it was 1 hand worth of space, which greatly amused the boys)
- if it’s another information source for the same topic, also indent 2 fingers worth
Show kids how to add relevant pictures, maps and diagrams to their notes
This is especially important if your child is a visual learner. It will also help with the kids who are doodlers, because they have a place to add the extra drawings
This can take several different forms, for my kids so far it’s been drawings, but I foresee a not too distant future where we’re cutting out and gluing in maps and other great diagrams from our textbooks. I’m a big fan of random inserts into notes.
As you can see, the kids learned a rather important thing for visual learners: add color. That’s a key for me. I take notes in lots of different colors.
When teaching kids how to take notes, make sure you teach them to make it personal
My kids had different things that caught their fancy. One of my boys added extra illustrations about earthquakes. My other son drew all of the different cave types.
Ultimately we need to remember it’s their notes. We can give them the tools for how to take notes and what works for us, but it has to work for them, otherwise, the lessons are useless.
Teach your kids how to abbreviate words
When I originally wrote this post, I was giving suggestions for writing notes from reading a textbook, which is remarkably similar to reading comprehension. Now, while my kids take notes from their textbooks, they also take notes from my lectures.
Yes, I give lectures to my kids. I expand on what they read and make sure to emphasize what’s on the test.
When you take notes you need to create your own shorthand. I have a long list of words that I abbreviate a certain way and some that I abbreviate in circumstances
- gov’t for government, and gov’r for governor, probably from years of reading British books with written accents
- I abbreviate names I frequently use with initials, so in our Texas history notes, I use SFA for Stephen F. Austin, same for FDR, JFK, etc.
- I draw symbols for some words. My kids recognize my shorthand drawing for woman, and the other symbols I use.
- b/c- because
Teach your kids when taking notes they can’t write every word
One of the hardest lessons to learn as you learn to take notes is you can’t write down every word, you just need the important words.
Right now, with my kids in junior high, I’m doing a fair amount of pausing to give them time to catch up what they are writing. I am slowly decreasing how often I pause because when they get to college, the teachers won’t necessarily pause for them to catch up on their notes.
I also write notes on the overhead for them to get an idea of what it should look like.
Have you taught your kids how to take notes? I’m sure I’ll be revising this lesson in the future with more information for them
On to what we were up to this week. While almost all of my boxes for Illuminations were checked (we’re behind on CKE Earth and Space because of the reteaching thing), it still feels like we didn’t do all that much.
So, that’s the sum total of my pictures for this week’s school. One day we went to the park, we’ve been going through Life of Fred: Apples during our morning meeting time and the kids love that because they can draw on dry erase boards and solve some ridiculously easy math (I went back to the first level because it addresses a few concepts we hadn’t in Math U See).
The boys had Lego club this week and Princess had American Girl doll club and learned about Josephina. Meanwhile, we learned about writing where paragraphs for writing, and I need to work on reteaching it and working more solidly on sentences, but they’re doing okay overall with writing.
Princess has been making math into a major production because she doesn’t IMMEDIATELY remember every math fact ever, so she’s decided in her head that she can’t do math. Which is the most ridiculous thing ever, considering she’s doing math two grade levels ahead of her age, but that’s what she’s decided, and she won’t be talked out of it. So, we did some backwards work and making her a “cheat sheet” for her math. It’s going to be a great resource for her as she works on her multiplication and division, and will build her confidence back up.
On the home front, last Friday the kids had park day with our local homeschool group, but it was cold so there were only a few families, which worked out perfect for the kids. We attempted to make homemade noodles, but they did not turn out at all. Well, they were noodles, but they weren’t particularly tasty and seemed like a rather blah dumpling. Friday night we went to an Operation Christmas Child packing party for American Heritage Girls and the kids all had a blast with that.
The rather dark blurry picture is a common sight at our house lately. Princess has taken to sleeping in the boys’ room rather often, and then Mac sneaks in to join the giant “puppy pile on the floor,” all 3 kids asleep on the floor.
The boys had a night out together, and so Princess and I had a very lovely tea party put together by her. Complete with carefully arranged snacks and everything.
But, the big news in our family was Princess’ birthday. Yesterday was her ACTUAL birthday, so we had lots of preparing for it. Monday, Mom, Jeff, and I each took a kid out in preparation for buying her presents (Princess went clothes shopping with Jeff, an outing I Happily gave to him). I hung out with Superman, we had a fun dinner and he was on a mission to find exactly what he wanted to get her.
Tuesday night she happily spent planning her party. She has a long list of items we had to buy for her party and very specific details for decorating. Seriously, we spent 20 minutes scrolling through party decorations on my computer. When we went to Hobby Lobby the boys suggested we needed the “Caution Old People Zone,” Princess was not amused.
Thursday (her actual birthday) was a slew of celebrations. As soon as she woke up she got to open ONE present and was a very happy girl. Then she decorated her cupcakes with the help of her brothers. Then it was dance class and cupcakes for everyone in that. Dolphin Tale 2 at the Dollar Theater (during school hours). American Heritage Girls with yet more cupcakes, and finally a family dinner celebration of fondue (her choice) with one more cupcake. Seriously she had 3 cupcakes and who knows how much frosting in the decorating process.
Finally, she opened the rest of the presents from her family and was a very very happy girl.
And that is our week in review