I need to reexamine my own teaching practices. So what have I done thus far throughout the year? We began by reading Social Studies texts. Read, read, read. Gradually, I introduced taking notes. Breaking down text to the bare minimum. In class we take two- column notes, a strategy modeled after the Cornell Notes system. It has been a district initiative for years. We put a title at the top, identify main ideas on the left side and bullet the supporting details on the right. Instruction in note taking is done in class with a gradual release of responsibility. I do it, we do it, you do it. When taking notes I want students to keep it as simple as possible. I have them keep in mind to find the very basic information, abbreviate when possible, look for nouns and verbs , words and phrases not sentences and if different information says basically the same thing already in your notes, you don't need it. I was given an analogy once about note taking. I was told to think of text as a bucket of water. Take a sponge and absorb all of the water. Once the sponge is saturated, squeeze out all of the excess water. What should be left in the sponge would represent the summary.
Note taking is pretty straight forward. At least, based on what I have been trained in I think I am doing the right thing. Now for the summarizing. This time I am asking students to synthesize their notes, put them back together in a way that makes sense. Begin with turning the title into the topic sentence. If there is only one main idea, the title and main idea can be combined into a topic sentence. Every main idea is turned into a sentence. Next select most, not all of the details to change back into sentences using transitions words to connect the writing. No abbreviations, no lists. That's it. I have modeled it several times, having them copy my summaries, then working with them and generating summaries together. Now that I have released all of the responsibility to them, I am not getting anything that closely resembles what I did or what we did together. This is aggravating. Many of the summaries I read last night lacked a topic sentence, were full of abbreviations (&,@, h2o instead of water, etc.)listed all of the information-sometimes in sentences, sometimes in the phrases from the notes and lacked transitions. It was very evident that my seventh graders do not have an understanding of summarizing.
So now what? I am going to start with the water/sponge analogy. I will bring in a bucket and sponge for a live demonstration. I am lacking an anchor chart that reminds them of the necessary steps. I will put one of those up asap. Also, those that are ready to work on their own ( there are a few) will. I will need to conduct guided practice for those students who are not yet ready to accomplish summarization on their own. Look at that...differentiation! Whoo hoo! This is where a co-teacher or an aide would be helpful. We could each work with smaller groups and focus on the different skill levels with mostly modeling and guided practice. If only...
My goal with my seventh graders is to see summary scores go from the low 70s to high 70s -low 80s for the remainder of this year. I would also like to see the scores keep increasing next year as my seventh graders become my eighth graders.