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Why we should give students time to synthesise and summarise their writing

Updated: Jun 16, 2019


I have become obsessed with a new strategy recently and I new I had to write a post about it. This works for any lesson where students are required to write notes from slides, textbooks, or anything else. I teach year 9 politics and law which can sometimes get a little bit content-heavy, but I also notice this in some of my English classes as well, so I have started implementing this strategy wherever I can.


So, the idea is simple: students start by taking notes in whatever format they like. Most of my students take bullet point, listed notes with subheadings but this works for any style. At the end of the note-taking period, students are given five minutes to synthesise their notes by writing a short summary and highlighting it at the bottom of their notes.


Let me tell you, since I started using this technique, I've noticed that my students are finding information retention and recalling information from previous classes much easier.


The age-old teacher problem is that students S.T.R.U.G.G.L.E to shorten information from textbooks and slides, instead erring on the side of (seemingly innocuous) caution, by writing down every single word in a sentence. This means that students don't fully understand what they have written and their notes are almost useless when it comes to test time. After starting to give them time to synthesise and summarise, I noticed that my classes (especially my politics and law class) were able to easily study and find the main bits of their notes without having to reread every single (confusing and overly sophisticated) sentence they had written down. They had already done the hard yards in their note taking when I had helped guide them to the most important parts and their test prep became much easier.


Have you done something similar? Or do you need to get on the bandwagon? Let me know in the comments!

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