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Note Taking - Learned Skill?

>> Thursday, November 19, 2009

I spoke recently with a homeschooling mom who was concerned because her daughter was in sixth grade and didn't have a clue how to take notes. She was looking for a product or formula that she might use to teach this skill. I made the following, cost-effective (nothing to buy!) suggestions:

  • Start off by explaining the purpose of note-taking: to keep a record of your condensed understanding of what you're reading or hearing. In other words ... don't trust your memory!
  • The next step is learning to focus and concentrate while listening. If you are reading a book aloud to your student ... tell them that each time they hear what seems to be an important tidbit of information, they need to write it down. These would be things like an important date, someone's age, or a location where something occurred. This might even include any words or terms they don't understand.
  • In between listening for these types of note-worthy "facts" ... suggest that they make notes that will act as "reminders". Perhaps you're reading a chapter about Washington's winter at Valley Forge. Were there things mentioned in the chapter that helped them understand "why" the army was there? Perhaps something that gave a basic explanation of "what" was going on politically at the time? These all make good reminders.
  • Compare note-taking to being a newspaper reporter. They always need to be answering ... Who? What? When? Where? Why? and How?
The ultimate goal? To be able to go back and read over their notes and come away with the same knowledge/understanding they gained when they first read or heard the information. Note-taking acts as a "refresher" of sorts.

Keep in mind ... this takes practice. You may need to prod a bit at first ... or even come alongside and take notes that they might copy. Read a few sentences from a book to your students, and then stop and say ... "If it were me, I would make a note of the following ..."

As your student gains proficiency in knowing what they need to make notes of, then help them to develop their own style of note-taking "shorthand".
  • Helpful abbreviations
  • Use incomplete sentences
  • Use bullet points or asterisks to make points stand out on a page
Church sermons, TV or radio news reports, or even a DVD documentary all provide great opportunities for practicing note-taking. And who knows ... working with your student may help your skills to improve as well!!



The Holidays are Coming ...

>> Tuesday, November 3, 2009

For some people that statement brings feelings of excitement and fond memories of childhood holidays ... for others it creates a feeling of dread and the wish to just fast-forward to January.

I suppose there are a multitude of reasons why some folks love the holidays as much as others hate them. In fact, I've had some years where I couldn't wait for Thanksgiving to arrive, and other years when I wished we could just avoid the whole mess. Current family dynamics, age, the economy, and a whole slew of other factors play into how you perceive the holiday season.

So how to avoid the holiday doldrums when they come rushing in? Two simple approaches have helped me immensely in past years. 1) Get my focus off myself, and 2) Do some advanced planning.

Get your focus off yourself
Those years when I've struggled the most, and tried to determine why, I've usually found that I am hyper-focused on my physical struggles, family struggles, or disappointment in others. It has been very helpful for me to name the issue, whatever it might be, and consciously work to leave it with the Lord. If I can daily shift my focus off from me and on to those around me, my attitude improves tremendously. Certainly the holidays are not the time to become a martyr, so I'm not suggesting totally ignoring personal needs. But looking for little things that might work to improve my spirits is much more fruitful than using that time to dwell on life's troubles or injustices.

Do some advanced planning
Most often the stress and hair-tearing of the holiday season can be avoided with a little proactive planning. As much as I'm able, I try to map out the events of November and December well in advance. Around those activities I plan our meal schedule. Based on that schedule I try to plan my grocery shopping so I only have to go once or twice. There's nothing more frustrating to me than being stuck in an over-crowded grocery store during the holidays.

Getting my kids involved with the planning is also tremendously helpful. With my focus on others instead of myself, it becomes less important that every event is planned "correctly" than working on the project as a family. We schedule hospitality times in our home, create a menu, and brainstorm decoration ideas.

I also take a serious, realistic look at our budget, and plan our gift giving based on what is possible. 61% of Americans list lack of money as being their greatest holiday stress point. Shifting our focus to relationships and creativity can go a long way toward relieving this issue.

Not creative? Need a jump-start for holiday meal planning and gift-giving? Here are some great resources to check out as we head into November.

(Standard caveat - I cannot vouch for all the content on each of these sites, so browse with care).

I'd love to hear your ideas for a stress-free, enjoyable holiday season. Feel free to share! And most of all ... I wish you a relaxing, family and Christ-centered holiday season.

Blessings ...


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