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Note-Taking from an Occupational Therapist’s Perspective

The prerequisite skills for note taking begin in infancy. If a student does not meet these prerequisites can we expect them to take notes?

Taking notes is a very complex skill rooted in abilities developed in infancy.  While sitting in a classroom, a student is expected to have appropriate cognitive and motor responses to the teacher providing the lecture.  That is easier said than done!  As an infant, we are supposed to alert to a sound, respond to that sound with head turning in that direction, differentiate pleasant sounds from unpleasant sound and learn to express pleasure or displeasure.  Visually, we are expected to respond in a similar way: alert to a visual stimulus, respond by following that stimulus by turning our head to follow it, differentiate pleasurable from displeasing.  Infants are expected to demonstrate a motor response to the stimulus, i.e., eye opening, finger splaying, and activation of limbs. Just as an infant is expected to display a motor response to stimuli, a student is also expected to respond motorically to stimuli provided by the teacher.  Students learn to respond to certain cues, i.e., “This is important,” “Conversely,” repetition of the information, etc.  It is very difficult for student to respond if he or she lacks the prerequisite skills.  Alternatives for taking notes should be offered to the student.  The least invasive is to have the student copy notes from the board (far point).  Some students have difficulty with visual skills such as pursuits and saccades (visual tracking and changing fixation from one target to another) making this difficult.  First a slant board (often a binder) can be used to address this issue.  If that doesn’t work then maybe copying from near point will work.  The next more invasive intervention might be providing the student with some form of prepared notes, i.e., Cloze Notes.  Cloze notes are fill-in the blank notes.  Students are only required to add one or two words to a statement rather than copy the entire statement.  The next level might be providing the student with a copy of teacher generated notes prior to the class for the student to highlight during class.  The next level might be having the student attempt whatever he or she is able then giving a copy of notes to the student, usually a copy from another student who takes very good notes.  Another strategy is to use on-line notes for a site like www.studyblue.com.  You may be lucky enough to find course notes similar to class notes with flash cards.  Kno.com is a site where you can buy electronic textbooks (usually at a reduced cost), this site also provides lecture (from the book), study materials and social networking for studying.  Kno.com is iPad friendly.  Along with programs like Evernote with Penultimate, this maybe all the student needs to be in class.  A student could photograph handouts and never have to carry another piece of paper.  Assignments could be entered into Everstudent (a digital assignment book/agenda).   One of the last options would be to type notes on a laptop or a computer.  If the student lacks the prerequisite skills for note taking, they cannot be expected to be successful if you give them something to type on even though they can type at a good speed with good accuracy.  A sixth grader is expected to type at a speed of 25-30 words per minute with 93% accuracy.  If a student has only handwriting concerns, is able to meet all the prerequisite skills for note taking, can type 25-30 words per minute with 93% accuracy then maybe the option for using a keyboard or laptop is the answer.

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Lori Melnitsky-Fradkin January 19, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Thank you for this very useful information! It was very helpful.
Eleanor Cawley January 20, 2013 at 03:06 AM
Glad that you feel that way! TTYL :-)
Eleanor Cawley May 04, 2013 at 02:18 PM
This post was actually listed on the American Occupational Therapy Association's websitehttp://www.aota.org/News/Media/OT-News.aspx WOOHOO!

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