Harry Wong
Dec 2017
Vol 14 No 4

Promote Critical Thinking: A 3-column Note Taking Strategy

By Susan Fitzell

Many teachers use a two-column note taking strategy when giving notes to students. However, a colleague of mine takes this up a level by adding an additional column. That third column is used for test questions.

Here’s how it works:

The first column is for the big ideas, also known as the main ideas that a student needs to glean from a lecture or their reading materials.

The second column is for details that support the big ideas. We might call this evidence, supporting information, references, etc.

In the third column, students review the material in the first two columns and create test questions based on that information.

To create test questions from the material written in the first two columns, students must not only comprehend the information, but determine what’s important. A study based out of the University of Michigan’s School of Dentistry, suggested that “student-driven, collaborative assessments can be an important tool for building critical thinking skills […]” (Gonzalez-Cabezas, Anderson, Wright, & Fontana, 2015)

It takes skill to write a good question. So, another option would be for the teacher to go over potential questions with the students before they write their own questions in the third column. For students to create a good question. they need to be able to key in on the important information and critical concepts. They might also need to understand relationships between different concepts in the notes (Isabel Gauthier, 2010).

When students create questions, there is also the opportunity for them to relate their questions to their own experiences. This then hooks that information into long-term memory because students are relating new knowledge with previous knowledge. (Arie van Deursen, 2016)

Take it up one more level: Use only one side of the paper for the three column notes. Use the other side of the paper to illustrate the notes!

Excerpted from Special Needs in the General Classroom, 500+ Teaching Strategies for Differentiating Instruction.

About the author

Susan Fitzell OCT15Susan Gingras Fitzell, M. Ed, CSP specializes in transforming teaching from whole class instruction that teaches to the middle to instruction that structures and enhances lessons to reach every student, whether gifted or struggling. She’s a dynamic, nationally recognized presenter, author of over a dozen books for teachers and parents, and an educational consultant. Susan speaks from experience in the classroom! Her work focuses on building caring school communities and helping students and teachers succeed in the inclusive classroom.
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This entry was posted on Monday, May 8th, 2017 and is filed under *ISSUES, June 2017, Susan Fitzell. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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