CASE STUDY #10: Middle School Big Plan
Sarah was an eighth grade student when we began working together. She had inconsistent grades, and she complained that she was overwhelmed by her schedule and her workload. Part of this issue was the reality that she had periods of high levels of work, with some weeks having multiple tests or quizzes and other weeks having a relatively light work load. During the heavier workload periods, she was unable to keep up with the work and struggled, which resulted in sub-par grades.
She had what amounted to a grade yo-yo effect. The solution for Sarah, which is detailed in this chapter, was to break up larger projects into small daily exercises, which could be done every day. For example, knowing that she would have a history test the following week, she would study all of her history material up to that date every day (as if she had a history test the next day). The same system was utilized for each class: science, math, English, etc. Basically she took larger projects like reports and papers and studying for tests and broke them into smaller daily activities that she found easier to complete.
CASE STUDY #9: University-Level Note-Taking
Melanie was a university student taking business classes. She found that many of her classes were a combination of lecture information, classroom examples and what the instructor would put on the board, and practice problems that she had to do in class, typically on a worksheet. The challenge was to integrate this information into a single flowchart that enabled her to understand the important concepts. Our solution was to utilize technology to gather and sort information. Melanie was able to use her phone to take pictures of worked out problems the teacher had done in front of the room on the board. Once she had these pictures, she copied them into Evernote and added her written class notes as well as pictures or scans all of her worksheets and worked out problems. This use of different technologies enabled Melanie to gather, organize, and store the information in one place, which, in the past, had been separated, if recorded at all.
CASE STUDY #8: High School Note-Taking
I worked with a student named Tony who had an interesting combination of classes. He was taking two AP classes and one honors class, along with an art class and a media class. The advanced classes were often based on discussions and group projects, with less lecturing and notes given by the teacher. However, when it came time for tests and exams, a great deal of these evaluations included questions based on the discussions. Tony had the challenge of keeping track of information during the class while remaining engaged in these discussions or small group projects. We implemented a system using a combination of styles on the same outlining page that was essentially a flowchart system to cover main ideas and main topics, along with an indentation-based system that was used within many of the flowchart boxes and subdivisions. The system worked well because many of the discussions had a free-form structure to them, so the notes were not necessarily linear in the way that they were organized. However, Tony found that this combination enabled him to record the essential information in these advanced classes.
CASE STUDY #7: Middle School Note-Taking
When I first began working with Jennifer, a seventh grader, she was overwhelmed by the sheer load of information in all of her classes. The teachers in some classes gave a high volume of notes, while teachers in other classes relied more on handouts and PowerPoints for conveying information. Because of this inconsistency in how information was delivered, Jennifer had not developed a consistent method of cataloging and collecting information. Our solution, and one of the techniques you will see in this chapter, was to use a combination of note taking styles, primarily visual styles like flowcharts and concept maps in the classes with more information from the teacher and more two-stage note taking techniques, like the Cornell system, in classes where teachers relied on handouts and PowerPoints. Jennifer found that the combination of systems was most effective for her. She had, in the past, only had one style of note taking or outlining that she was able to use. With the addition of multiple styles and strategies, her recordkeeping became much stronger and was much easier for her to accomplish.
CASE STUDY #6: University Level Outline
By the time a student gets to college they are hopefully developed a strong enough skill set to process information needed at this advanced level but they also need to be able to work independently and to manage time effectively. A longtime student of mine, Dan, went off to college and quickly found that the volume of information was a challenge for him. He had learned some outlining techniques working with me during high school but he hadn’t though of them as organizational tools (more so a smaller scale information management usage). He connected with me asking for ways to combine with the note taking techniques that he had learned with the outline skills that he has as well.
“I found that each of the different types of outlines like flow charting and circle outlining where most effective because the information – especially in the sciences and history – tended to flow and organize in that way.”
He went back and redid most of his class information this way and within a week he told me that his workload was easier to handle and that he felt more control of things. He also found that the outlines not only helped the him to learn the material but they also made it much easier to review and to study the material when needed.
“It was a great help. I knew putting the time into the outlines would reward itself multiple times because I kept coming back to them when I reviewed. And I actually enjoy making them since it makes information more visual which helps me.”