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At some point last year, exhausted and frustrated with the quality of notes taken at A-level, I made the Cornell method mandatory. Occasionally I’m asked, “Cornell yeah, Sir?” but it’s now such a normal way of working that I rarely have to mention it. What’s been of particular use is the summary section at the bottom, as students can turn back a few pages to quickly check something if need be.

I have no evidence that this is the reason for their improved ability to recall above anything else we’ve done, but it certainly makes finding information much easier.

So, for no other reason than making their books neater for revision, I asked Y9 to do the same thing. Well, almost. At the start of every lesson they draw a line about a fifth of a way up from the bottom of their page and then leave this blank. After one or two hours we then revisit what’s previously been looked at to write a summary, and then check a few using the visualiser. We look for the best overview which should include a flavour of the history studied, with perhaps one or two key dates, people or events.

I suppose these could be called mini-plenaries, but then they aren’t activities, as such, and no time is spent is spent on anything irrelevant to the actual history. We’re at a stage where this is automatic and I’m wondering why Y10 and Y11 aren’t doing the same thing.

Neat books, clearer notes and summaries at the bottom of each page. Easy.

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