Another graduating class is walking across the stage with their degrees and turning their tassels as new graduates. You are now equipped with the knowledge, skills, and training from your respective majors/specializations. After celebrating such a humongous life milestone, reality slowly starts to creep in as you recognize that you are one of thousands new graduates. You have now completed 2-4+ years of higher education to obtain a piece of paper in a field you (will hopefully) enjoy with the seal of your learning institution… now what? The “now what” part has baffled many who have been in your shoes, including yours truly.
This is a very important time in your life, especially if you are one of the 50+ million Americans who are under the age of 30. This is the time where you decide what direction your life goes, how you will begin to develop your career path, when you want to start a family, gain a better grasp of your life’s mission, where you would like to live (within the country and/or abroad), and other major life decisions.
I recently came across Clinical Psychologist Meg Jay’s video on TED.com titled, Why 30 is not the new 20. Her message was a real eye-opener for myself, and it allowed me to realize that I have been viewing my 20s in the right perspective. Your 20s are the stepping stone into adulthood, and what you accomplish or do not accomplish during this time can (and from Dr. Jay’s message, will) greatly affect your life circumstances in your 30s, 40s, and beyond.
I strongly urge all new graduates to view this video as it was impactful enough on me to begin writing this article. It revealed to me the real world advice I am about to share (that stemmed from my own experiences) with you was greatly needed, and I hope that this advice will be helpful to my fellow 20-somethings (and those young at heart who are also embarking on new career paths after obtaining their degrees).
Real World Advice #5: Begin to save for retirement now!
When you get that first job, try your hardest to save, save, save, as much as you can. Though you may not believe that you are earning enough to save (especially if you have student loan payments, car note and insurance, rent/mortgage, paying high gas prices, buying groceries, and trying to maintain a social life), saving what you can now will definitely benefit you later on in life.
As reported in USA Today, Millennials seem to be better at saving for the future than Baby Boomers were during this particular time in life. One of the main reasons for this is the uncertainty of Social Security still being available for Millennials in 30-40 years when we reach the age of retirement (which is likely to rise as we are living longer). Though those in the news article have saved a substantial amount for someone in their 20s and early 30s, this should not discourage anyone from beginning to save what you can now. Even if you were to save $100-$300 (I am aware that this amount may not be very realistic for some of you, but continue to follow my point) every pay period, that would jump start a nice savings “nest egg” for you. This nest egg could make the difference in how you view an unexpected layoff or having to replace the battery or tires on your vehicle.
Real World Advice #4: Learn about the Federal Student Loan Repayment options NOW!
It amazes me how little college graduates and graduate students know about the repayment plan options offered by the Department of Education when it comes to subsidized and unsubsidized student loans. When I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in 2008, there were not many repayment options available outside of standard, extended, graduated, forbearance, and deferment options. Now, because of the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare), there are several new repayment plan options that correlate with how much you are making (or not making) once you graduate. These new repayment plans are: the Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan, the Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR) plan, the Pay As You Earn Repayment plan, and the Income-Sensitive Repayment plan. If you meet the income qualifications, these plans may lower your repayment balance to an amount that is more financially feasible (and most importantly, keep you from defaulting on your student loans).
Remember, it is easier to get debtors (whether it is the federal government or other collectors) to understand your financial situation BEFORE you owe them (or are late in making a payment) than when you’re on the brink of defaulting. As with the saving tip, being financially responsible is imperative to having a good credit score, as well as to being able to afford that dream home and providing yourself and your future family with the necessities and (every now and then) luxuries in life.
Real World Advice #3: Learn all you can on your first job, even if it is totally the opposite of what you really want to do in your career.
Some of you may find yourself accepting a job offer that is totally NOT want you had envisioned after obtaining your college or postgraduate degree. There could be a number of reasons for this: the position has NOTHING to do with your major/degree specialization; you are earning pennies to what is average for someone with your education and training; you have spotted the dysfunctions within the work environment (remember, every workplace has its quirks, but you quickly recognize the difference between quirks and just downright unprofessional, unethical, and self-esteem draining environment); not within your interest scope; leadership is questionable and/or nonexistent; or you just do not see yourself lasting more than 2-3 years (which may be a generous time estimate).
We have ALL been there, wondering what in the devil am I doing in this place, for “x” amount of hours, 5-7 days a week? If this is you, then know that you are not alone. Even if your current job is truly the pits, there is something to be learned from this experience.
For example, let’s say that you have noticed the lack of strong leadership with your supervisor or a lack of cohesion within management in regards to the way the agency/company operates. It is hard to learn from that kind of setting while in the thick of things, but YOU CAN. If you desire to incorporate your own business one day, then take note of what is going on with the leadership. Where does the dysfunction exist? Is there a lack of support between team members? Are there communication issues? Do people expect others to “worship” them because of the position they hold (basically, the egomaniacs)? Is there a lack of support if there are issues/concerns – is the infamous “open door policy” nonexistent?
If any of these, and more, are some of the issues you have spotted within management, take away the key learning points. You realize the damage these issues will have on the teamwork, work morale, and overall operations within an agency; do your best to keep the company you want to develop from going down the same path.
Do realize that your first job will not be your ONLY job, especially as Millennials are known to be the generation that will pursue several different career paths during our lifetime. If your first job post-graduation is not what you had hoped for, remember that the skills, knowledge, and training you acquire while employed will help you establish yourself further as a professional and better prepare you for that next employment opportunity that will better suit your professional interests.
Real World Advice #2: Being an individual is NOT a bad thing; go against the grain.
This one is key – sometimes you have to stand alone in what you want to do in order to make a difference. This seems to be so cliche, but trust me, it is VERY true. It is easy to get caught up in a routine: wake up, go to work, come home, eat, chat, and watch tv, go to bed, and do it all over again the next day. What fun is that, really? Why become a “manufactured” being? Why not branch out and do something new and innovative? “New and innovative” does not mean that your work has to be ground-breaking; it means that you are establishing/creating/developing/implementing something with the idea of it having a positive impact on the world, once you are no longer here. Be reminded that being a trendsetter/originator does not occur overnight; it may be a slow process, but the work you will accomplish at the end is well worth the long hours, sleepless nights, stress, and miss spending your free time with family and friends. One of my personal goals is when I come to the end of my life, I hope that forcing myself to be an individual and ensuring that my actions and work to empower and uplift others would have afforded me the opportunity to leave a positive mark (or in my case, tire mark) on the world. I am aware that developing the career and life that I desire will come with sacrifices, but I am willing to endure those sacrifices if it means that my presence and determination has affected the lives those I serve in a meaningful way.
Real World Advice #1: While job searching, figure out your real passion.
For some of you, you may be lucky to have a job lined up before you walked across that stage. For a good majority, however, you may be on several job search engine websites applying for a plethora of jobs day in, day out. The stress of job-searching can be hard, especially when you see your classmates and friends expressing their happiness about getting the confirmation call about the job they interviewed for on social media. Deep down, you are happy for them, but a tiny part of you is wondering, “when is my breakthrough coming?” Trust me, I have been there. When I graduated with my Master’s last year, it was difficult witnessing others gaining employment while I was stuck at home putting in application after application for jobs that I really did not want, or being called for interviews for positions that paid way less for someone with the level of education I had.
Inbetween applying and going for interviews, I took the time to figure out what made my heart sing, a popular statement uttered by one of my graduate professors. One thing that I started was my Tumblr blog; I always loved writing (and received positive remarks from professors and friends about my writing), so I thought, why not share my thoughts/ideas about the world around me to millions online? I also began volunteering for the Presidential campaign, since I wanted to become more community-focused (I’m a Macro Social Worker through and through). Taking the time to figure out what I really wanted to do with my degree and my overall career goals made me realize that none of the jobs I had been applying for fit within the macro social work mold I loved.
So I am urging each of you to do what I did – use your free time to develop your passions, and see where they may lead you. Who knows, you may wind up pursuing your passion as a career choice.
I hope that my advice will help those who are nervous, anxious, and worried about the future after graduation. The reason we worry about the future is because we do not have control over it or know what to expect. It is only after we learn how to learn to let go and be conscious and realistic about what we can and what we cannot control, is when we will effectively release that feeling of anxiety about the unknown when it comes to our future.
New Year’s Resolutions for Students
It’s that time of year again — the new year when many of us set impossible goals or make empty promises to ourselves about “bettering” something in our lives. Do you know there’s a better way to set achievable goals?
When I instruct my students about reflecting and goal setting, I use the popular SMART goals method, an acronym which helps direct us to make goals that are, well, smart. The same directives we use in the classroom to set SMART goals can be easily applied to students’ papers about New Year’s resolutions, a short writing task I give my students on the first day back from winter break. I, too, will use the SMART goals method to set and reach my own personal New Year’s resolutions this year. But how, exactly, can we weave SMART goals into resolutions for students?
Let’s take a look!
The acronym varies slightly among teachers and educational resources, but the basic expectations of SMART goals are seen below:
Specific (simple, straightforward)
Measurable (meaningful, monitored)
Achievable (attainable, agreed upon)
Relevant (reasonable/realistic, results-oriented)
Timely (trackable, tangible)
Specific, Simple, Straightforward
Much like setting SMART goals, students’ New Year’s resolutions should be specific or straightforward, meaning “Do better in school” would not make the cut. We must prompt students to specify exactly what they hope to change or achieve. Ask questions like, “In which class or classes do you want to see improvement?” “What grade do you consider to be ‘better’?”
Measurable, Meaningful, Monitored
A measurable or monitored resolution should be quantifiable; it must involve progress which can be tracked. Ask students how they plan to track or measure the progress, and how often they should check-in, evaluate, or adjust based on the measured progress. For instance, if a resolution is to improve their timed mile run by dropping 30 seconds, encourage them to keep time logs, workout schedules, and other exact measures of their progress.
Achievable, Attainable, Agreed Upon
An achievable resolution is one within the realm of reality — and students need to be aware of this fact. Resolutions must be attainable and realistic. While we teachers should not dash dreams or cut anyone short of their highest potential, we also need to help students realize what is and is not achievable in the manner or timeline they have allotted. If a student’s resolution or goal is to win the state’s 1st place mile, but they have never run any sort of distance race, their aim is set much too high. This is not to say they cannot one day reach that level, but this resolution should detail smaller steps in an effort to reach that point in the future.
Depending on a student’s age, the achievable factor should be agreed upon, meaning a parent or other adult figure is “in” on the accountability of the resolution. Relevant resolutions should be goals that matter on a larger scale. If a student wants to focus on family time, a resolution might be to keep the cell phone off and away during meals, gatherings, and other family activities. This goal is certainly achievable; there are no outside factors which could disrupt the goal. The student simply has to be mindful of his or her presence during family time. It is relevant because the cell phone is a likely distractor during conversations and meals.
Timely, Trackable, Tangible
Finally, a timely resolution is one that has a definitive starting point and incremental check-ins. When writing a New Year’s resolution, students should ask themselves, “What can I do today to work towards this? What can I do two weeks from now? Two months from now? What would this resolution look like in 6 months?” Working towards the resolution or goal should start right away — as we all know, procrastination is a surefire way to derail our progress.
Family Team Time
It will come as no shock to most parents that a significant amount of time per week is spent running children from point A to point B and back again. What may be shocking, however, are the actual statistics surrounding the average family’s carpooling and chauffeuring routine. Research shows that, by the time children reach adulthood, parents will have spent almost 200 days behind the wheel running their kids from place to place.
Now, as much as educators, parents, and students embrace the notion of extracurricular activities, there are alternative ways to shape interests, take part in cooperative learning, build relationships, and experience new things. Perhaps it is time to consider putting a halt to the daily grind — with family team time.
What is Family Team Time?
Not to spoil the concept of extracurricular activities — as a teacher, I know that extracurriculars can truly change students’ lives — but there are also some factors to consider when it comes to the many activities children participate in. Clubs, sports, camps, classes — all these activities add up, both monetarily and in terms of time commitments. For families with multiple children, the desire to keep kids consistently “doing” can prove to be a costly, time-consuming, and even stressful undertaking. Family team time, substituting extracurriculars with engaging family activities could be a great alternative to try this winter. Simply put, family team time is anything the family does together for enjoyment. Below are options to try in place of signing up for another round of extracurricular activities this winter
Museums & More
Considering our proximity to D.C.’s many museums, theaters, and other cultural hubs, there are countless engaging options for your family to experience together this winter. Especially as the holidays approach, options will be plentiful: festivals, concerts, plays, ballets, and other performances. Consider taking in a show, visiting a museum, or simply touring the neighborhood’s Christmas lights. Plan ahead by checking Groupon and other sites for deals on attractions, discounted events and performances, and student rates. Museum visits are a great free option to explore art and history with the whole gang — not to mention, they are a great place to escape from the bitter winter weather while still stretching your legs.
Afternoon matinees can prove to be a wonderfully inexpensive way to get the family together for a few hours of entertainment. Another option is to have a weekly family book club, in which every member of the family reads the same book. Once a week, make some popcorn, get comfy in the living room, and discuss the recently read chapters. Once everyone has finished the book, consider renting the movie version, as many young adult and family novels have been adapted to film. After the movie, encourage a mock-film study, in which you talk about how the movie and the book are similar or different, and which one each person preferred. Then, allow someone else to choose the next novel/movie combination. Keep the weekly book talks going until everyone has had the chance to select a novel for the family. To save money, consider checking books out at the local library or purchase used books online. For struggling readers, consider an e-book or audiobook version so children can follow along while listening to the book aloud.
Physical Activity Fun
Ice skating, bowling, or an afternoon at the trampoline park can provide much-needed exercise when cabin fever starts to hit in the winter months. As opposed to chauffeuring each child from activity to activity, family team time allows for one trip, to one agreed-upon activity, all together as a family. Want to stay in? Try a competitive Top Chef-inspired cooking challenge, in which each member chooses a flavorful pancake topping, unique pizza toppings, or quesadilla fillings. An impartial blind taste-tester is all you need to settle the sibling rivalry or family food feud!
Volunteer as a Family
As opposed to hustling from a game, to a recital, to a playdate on a busy weekend, consider volunteering as a family. Clean out the toy room and closets to donate to children in need. These gestures show children the holidays are not only about receiving, but also giving. Decide as a family to demonstrate the spirit of giving by helping out at an animal shelter, soup kitchen, book drive, etc. After volunteering, discuss each family member’s favorite moment of the day — what was the best part of volunteering? What did you learn?
This season, take a break from the constant flurry of extracurricular activity and give your family the gift of time together.
How to Provide the Full-Service Community-Supported Public Schools We Need
All students have potential, but access to support and opportunity is not equally distributed. As a high school principal for 10 years, I encountered well-intentioned teachers and students racing toward adulthood with an endless variety of needs: students struggling with poverty; transience; family changes; immigration; addiction; the negative effects of trauma; and emotional, physical, and social health.
In most cases, these challenges directly affect a student’s ability to thrive in the classroom, and schools struggle because there is no prescribed or easy solution. The response to the academic struggles of our students has traditionally included longer days and school years, improved instructional strategies, targeted remediation, and focused test preparation. But schools have rarely attempted to combat the non-academic root causes which are negatively affecting the achievement of our students.
Simply put, not enough is being done to address the lack of equity experienced by students and their families. So we must ask ourselves a few questions: How can I ensure my students have the access and opportunity to fully realize their potential? How do we help each student understand his or her personal aptitudes and assets? How do we instill within a student a sense of optimism and a sense of purpose?
A Comprehensive School Offering Wraparound Support
To really help students succeed, schools need to implement a holistic approach by supplementing our extensive instructional efforts and becoming “full service” schools. With embedded essential community services such as basic needs provision, mental and physical health services, hard and soft skill development, and workforce exploration, students have their best chance at a successful start following graduation.
A comprehensive wraparound school is a place of hope, connection, and opportunity — a school that’s actively striving to make equity and future success attainable for its students. This means monitoring student setbacks and successes, providing academic and behavioral interventions in a timely manner, connecting students and families with support services, and offering high-quality aptitude-based career and college transition counseling.
“Whole child” schooling, paired with collaborative community partnerships, is a cornerstone in the common-sense revisioning of public education and a powerful solution we need now. Here are some tips to improve a school’s ability to provide comprehensive, wraparound community services and partnerships to ensure all students have the support they need and an equitable opportunity for success:
1. Evaluate Students’ Needs
A comprehensive full-service school is designed to meet the needs of its students by working with local individuals, agencies, and businesses to strengthen the community. First, schools must identify needs and establish priorities. Schools uncover specific barriers and concerns students are facing by speaking in depth with students, parents, and community members. High-quality needs assessments provide data that schools and communities use to prioritize the most pressing needs and opportunities for support and partnership.
2. Give Students Hope, Purpose, and Relevance
For struggling students, some of the most powerful interventions regarding post-high school planning lie in the realm of social and emotional learning — the development of a student’s self-discovery and aspiration leading to optimism, self-worth, and purpose. Aptitude-based assessments are capable of helping educators and parents learn much more about our teens than what is typically gleaned through traditional academic testing.
While I was a principal at Marietta High School, we partnered as a pilot school with YouScience, an aptitude assessment tool. YouScience uncovers students’ natural talents and matches them to careers in which their abilities add value to the workforce. Too often, we point students in directions or make course recommendations for them based on what we have available for scheduling, what we can gather from their academic test results, and our own personal hunches about what they might be good at or interested in. Typically, educators have little information which is relevant to whether the direction recommended is the best fit for the individual student. YouScience equips schools to engage in individualized goal-setting with students and parents through a process that is informative and inspires hope.
3. Compile Resources
With students’ needs in mind, schools must search the community to identify local resources, partners, service providers, and funding sources. Consider looking beyond the local community for resources if need be, and then connect students and families with the available services. Some schools might want to start small, with partnerships providing care closets, apprenticeships, job placement assistance, mediation services, or wellness coaching, and then gradually grow the number of services offered over time. Other schools might have the resources to introduce multiple community partners to work with students and their families on a regular basis. The important thing is that students are connected with community resources providing the support they need.
4. Commit to the Long Term
It’s important to remember that developing a school which provides comprehensive support is a process that takes intentionality, time, and patience. School districts must commit to discovery, innovation, and collaboration, and they must focus on a long-term goal of community improvement. It’s deep work that’s dependent upon trust and building relationships with students and community members. Start small and commit to the long haul.
Schools are microcosms of their communities. The time and energy invested in this process will benefit not only students and their families but also the community as a whole. Creating a “one-stop shop” of support and coordination of essential community services is the best way to address the most significant barriers our students face today, as well as set them up for success for years to come.
Procrastination: Why We Do It and How to Combat It
Consistently, procrastination creates a snowball effect, in which anxiety or stress further compounds the need for the task avoidance. In basic terms, the more a student puts off a task or assignment, the greater the stress of the impending due date or need for completion. We all know this and can relate to that instinct — we then put it off even further because it has become such a monster, we must avoid it or ignore it at all costs.
The other issue surrounding procrastination is we often procrastinate with the tasks or responsibilities which matter most or have the highest stakes. Whether we do this out of fear, denial, indifference, or laziness, the end result is typically the same: we experience a sort of self-destruction by missing an important deadline, or we cave in and begrudgingly and reluctantly complete the task in hurry. Either outcome is less than ideal, especially when grades are involved. Because of procrastination, students dig themselves into a hole, lose motivation, and therefore put forth even less effort with their school work.
Awareness is key to combating the instinct to put off undesirable tasks. Once students realize how they procrastinate, they can begin to alter those behaviors. For example, a student completing research for a paper will find ways to distract himself from the assignment while working. They may check social media, text friends, pause to watch a show, listen to music, or simply scroll through random websites — anything becomes more enticing than the actual research.
- Encourage students to limit distractions by keeping the phone off–limits during work sessions.
- Complete work in an area away from television, music, friends, and other distractions.
- Set a timer for 20-30 minutes of solid, uninterrupted work time. Then allow yourself to take a 3-5 minute break, but then get right back to work.
- Keep light snacks and water at hand while working to stave off hunger and the unnecessary urge to graze to avoid the assignment.
- Construct a checklist for a multi-step task and prioritize the tasks in order of difficulty. As students work, they should monitor the checklist and stick to the order of steps as necessary. Again, the urge to complete the easiest or most interesting steps is another procrastination tactic — instead, encourage students to tackle the challenging steps first. This will boost motivation and confidence while working.
- Organize to-do lists with tasks requiring the most time or focus at the top. These are typically the first things that students will avoid completing.
- Ask students to write down three things they have accomplished at the end of a work session. The successes, no matter how small, show students a strong work ethic and focus does help them to chip away at a daunting task they may have vehemently avoided in the past.
Procrastination is an all too familiar practice for many of us. While certain people are more likely to put off all tasks until later, we have all experienced the desire to push off occasional duties, errands, chores, or responsibilities. For students, no matter their age or academic aptitude, procrastinating can become an alluring yet problematic habit. Pushing off tasks can become a major pitfall for several different reasons, but there are methods to combat this bad habit — and they begin with awareness.
Four Ways Neurodiversity Holds the Key to the Future of Special Education
For ages, special education has been developing on its own, together with the development of ordinary education. It emphasizes disorders and the ways special education students are lacking compared to an average student. Those who have a noticeable dysfunction have even been mocked for their lack of focus or skill to learn something – sometimes by teachers too.
And even though the history of the special education has been filled with inappropriate names and terms, the future is bright. More and more scientists and educators are turning to the better ways of conducting special education – and one of those ways is related to neurodiversity.
This term was first used by journalist Harvey Blume in the early 1990s and means that autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other special-needs conditions are the part of normal variations in the human population. And here is how neurodiversity changes the entire special education system.
1. In theory.
Special education as it is at the moment regards disability categories as something originated from biology, genetics, and neurology. Neurodiversity, on the other hand, focuses on the advantages these disabilities have to offer – they use this to explain why these genes are still here today and why people are still born with disabilities.
This new concept examines how a person with a disability can be lacking in some aspects but even more advanced than regular people in some. During the past decade, university programs such as London School of Economics’ Dyslexia and Neurodiversity program, or the College of William & Mary’s Neurodiversity Initiative are aimed to support neurodiverse students and create positive acceptance and niches for them.
Annabel Gray, neurodiversity specialist and educator at Origin Writings states, “Regarding a person as completely disabled is fundamentally wrong. Whereas a person with, for example, autism can be lacking in some areas of life, on a job which requires focus and attention to detail, this same person would do outstandingly well.”
2. The focus.
The focus of special education so far has been solely on assessing deficits and how to go about educating students based on these deficits. However, neurodiversity relies more on assessing the strengths, talents, abilities, and interests of disabled students. It is a strength-based approach where an educator would use a series of tests to discover the student’s abilities and teach them how to use them to tackle their everyday and educational challenges.
What is so great about neurodiversity approach is it gives the students all the necessary tools to cope with their day to day life by focusing on what they do best. This way the students are not feeling left out and they know there are some things where they can thrive in.
Workarounds are another way the neurodiversity improves the disabled students’ lives. What it essentially means is the educators are supposed to find ways for students to experience and learn which does not include their disabilities. For example, students with ADHD could be allowed to use special tools like stability balls or standing desks in order to focus on studying.
This could be expanded to create an individual education plan for each student based on what they need and in which environment they thrive the most. Placing those students in the traditional learning environment will help them to feel “lesser human being” or a burden.
Lila Christie, an educator at 1Day2Write and WriteMyX confirms: “Workarounds are some of the best ways of teaching the disabled students. We implement this strategy of putting each student in an environment that will allow them to learn without anything in the way. It not only works but also gives students the satisfaction and comfort.”
4. How to communicate with students.
While most special education programs still teach children about their disabilities, neurodiversity teaches them about the value of variation and being different. It teaches them how their brain works and how the environment affects it, how to use their skills to the maximum etc. This kind of mindset can help them realize the growth mindset can improve their performance.
To get the brain to its full potential it is important to get the students exercising in various ways, each suited to their own abilities – writing exercises are excellent ways to improve brain power and it can be easily accessible to students through tools such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Windows Speech Recognition, etc.
Neurodiversity is a great new approach to special education. It gives students opportunities and new ways of understanding themselves. This is a fresh take on educating those with disabilities – in fact, it relies more on their abilities and strengths. It can give students confidence and tools to be successful and do more later in their lives.
Note-taking November: For the Elementary Classroom
For elementary schoolers, note taking as a reading or comprehension strategy is likely unfamiliar, and for a legitimate reason — many younger learners are just beginning to get comfortable in their reading abilities at this stage. Many children view reading as a mundane task; but, if students begin to look at the reading material as a vessel for knowledge, they may change how they read for such information. Reading skills, particularly the ability to extract, analyze, and interpret relevant material, can be improved as students learn proper note-taking practices.
For elementary-age learners, taking notes while reading probably seems like an added burden on an already difficult task. Therefore, when introducing the concept, be sure to frame the instruction with expectations, benefits, and models of how the note taking should look.
Note-taking Takes Practice
Explain that note taking while reading is a practice which will take time — elementary schoolers should expect to practice this skill consistently before it becomes second nature. They should also expect their notes to be messy, which is why a pencil is a must. Begin the note-taking process by simply recording a stream of thought while reading.
Encourage students to mark up words and phrases which are:
- unfamiliar or confusing
- bolded, italicized, or repeated
- indicate the author’s purpose
- signify an important moment or realization
- present an interesting fact or take-away
Use these opportunities as a means of teaching context clues — if the term is unfamiliar, ask students if anything around the word or phrase provides insight into the unknown word’s meaning. Encourage them to brainstorm and experiment with possible word meanings until they land on something that makes logical, grammatical sense.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask, “Why?”
Elementary schoolers should also feel comfortable asking “why?” while reading. Encourage them to add question marks to areas of text they don’t understand or don’t see the relevance.
Model the Practice of Close Reading and Active Note-taking with Students Regularly
For the most part, note taking is an unfamiliar skill for elementary-age kids. When modeling the process, start small. Perhaps you begin by using a text that students have read before. This sense of familiarity will promote risk-taking and allow students to feel more comfortable tackling the text with their thoughts and observations. As you move through the text together, show them how to refer back to earlier notes if they have made connections or discovered an answer to a previous notation or question.
Inform Students of the Benefits of Note-taking
They will be surprised to know that notes can mean an easier time when rereading or skimming while studying. If students get in the habit of taking copious notes, most of the studying “legwork” will be done ahead of time. Their notes should also act as place markers, meaning any content which struck them as important or especially tricky should be highlighted to indicate that it is vital to review. Also, let young readers know that note taking is a deliberate practice ensuring focus, comprehension, and other active reading skills on behalf of the reader. If your mind is disengaged or drifting, there is no way you will be able to maintain substantial notes or annotations.
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