In the past couple of years I’ve seen that many teachers have been using booklets with students. These look like mini text books but with the advantage of being bespoke and generally having better tasks/questions for students to complete than the average text book.
I’ve not gone down this route as I’m a ‘chalk and talk’ type teacher that gives the students the info they need from the front rather than from a text. They’re also a lot of work. I could spend hours creating these.
However, I’ve come up with a different way of using booklets; guided notes booklets.
I have for the past 5 years promoted note taking with students. We expect it from year 7. We give them some guidance on what makes good notes and I constantly remind them in lesson about making notes. I put ‘core notes’ on the board that everyone has to write and then remind them to make independent notes. Some students do loads of independent notes and some do none. For GCSE I thought it would be useful to ensure that we cover the whole specification by creating a booklet that has every element of the specification inside it, laid out, ready for notes.
Our guided notes (also known as scaffolded, skeleton or skeletal notes) give students a simple structure for their notes based on the content being taught which differentiates them from generic templates such as Cornell notes.
The research for scaffolding notes for students is interesting. It’s overall positive for learning. The benefits of guided notes include increased accuracy, frequency of notes and improvement in tests. Research also suggests that students prefer using guided notes. Another interesting finding is that guided notes can benefit students with SEN (Lazarus 1993).
Konrad et al (2009) say ” Results indicated that guided notes are an effective and socially valid method for increasing note-taking accuracy and improving academic performance, particularly for school-age students” .
This Cult of Pedagogy podcast and blog has a great summary of the research on note taking.
I’ve made booklets that cover some of the units that we teach; essentially a whole topic. I’ve had to guess the amount of space needed for notes but used the previous year’s notes from a student’s folder to guide me on space.
The booklets include keywords, comparison charts, some diagrams where appropriate, extra independent notes pages and some information that we would have presented on individual sheets, such as quotations.
For students that have to use laptops for their work, I send them the blank template and they complete with typing.
As I have a visualiser I have one booklet per class I teach and will often complete the booklet with the students. This models my expectations, ensures I only get them to write what can be fitted in the boxes and makes sure they all get the minimum same content.
After using the booklets for the first time, I thought it would be useful to hear what the students think about them and get some useful feedback. Here are the questions I asked (via a google form) and selected responses that summarise the main points.
What are the benefits of using a booklet?
- “All my answers are in one place and are easy to find”
- “Don’t write unnecessary information”
- “The benifits of useing booklets are that you have all your notes in one place. You have pre written titles and you have paragraph structures when applicable” (sic)
- “It’s good because you have all the knowledge written down on one sheet instead of loads of different sheets to look back on.”
- “The answers are clearly in an area which is visible and it stays neat and clear.”
- “It is set out better and puts all the work together. It also shows us the amount of work needed for a certain lesson.”
- “Decreases amount of loose sheets”
What are the problems with using a booklet?
- “Not enough space for people with big handwriting”
- “There’s not enough space to write everything”
- “There is limited space to write.”
- “Can sometimes be overwhelming”
- “Some of the spaces are quite small, so limit the amount of info you can write.”
For the Theme E booklet, if we used it again next year, what do we need to change?
- “More space, some brief directions on what to do on each page for if we have a cover”
- “Titles,, We had to change some eg. from some Christians to some Muslims”
- “Add a notes page and more space to write in the boxes”
- “Just work out reasonable spaces for each part of the booklet so we don’t run out.”
From this feedback I’ve made every other page a blank notes page so they have more space for independent notes.
I probably should have followed this questions up with ‘why?’.
Any further USEFUL comments to help us
Examples of student work
These show how notes are made in the gaps and how the extra note space can be used for ‘free hand’ notes.
These booklets seem to be well received by students. They are fairly quick to make. They ensure that we cover all the points in the specification. They’ve been adapted so students have structure and the chance for lots of independent notes. We can easily edit them each year and add/remove what’s needed. Students and I can easily see what they’ve missed and can easily copy from another student. A huge benefit for me is that my ‘marking’ is checking for gaps. They’re useful for revision as all notes are in one place, clearly labelled. These are a structured start for students on note-taking, which can support them as they move to higher study, as they can see the benefits of layout and clarity of notes.
Potential draw backs include photocopying costs and students losing the booklet with everything in (no different to an exercise book). Some may be concerned that it limits teaching styles. It doesn’t matter how the content is taught, these booklets are just a record of the key learning so I think teachers can teach how they want then complete the booklet.
I will be making more for GCSE topics. I’m not yet concerned about using them at key stage 3 but it might happen one day.