5 ways to mix up your note taking lessons. Simple and engaging changes to spice up any lesson

Let’s talk about mixing up your lesson plans; especially those dreaded “note taking” days. Students have to take notes. They just do. You can activity and research and dramatic play and scavenger hunt, but they will still moan that one day you throw notes into the mix.

You know what, I get it. Honestly, I don’t think many teachers enjoy the days you have to lecture for hours in a row with awkward pauses for note-takers. So, let’s change that.

Let’s make even those regular days fun again!

Below, I’m going to share 5 ways you can shake up those days. They can be adjusted for various levels of “craziness” or cost-friendliness but they will help build up your arsenal of entertainment.

Let’s Mix Up Note Taking Days

1. Musical Chairs

It’s a classic movement exercise that can be done a few ways.

I highly suggest having your favorite Spotify or Pandora station lightly playing in the background. After each slide, the students pick up their notes and pencil and meander the room. You stop the music and they sit in the nearest chair for new notes.

Add a level of challenge: They can’t sit next to the same person twice!

Add some extra excitement: Before class, tape some envelopes under chairs with small rewards such as “candy” or “+2 extra credit”. You can call out a search party at the end or even draw sticks for table number and present the prize to each winner after finishing a section of notes.

2. Glow Sticks/Black Lights

There are a couple ways to go about this one. You can buy glow sticks in large sets or use classroom flashlights and blacklights for ambiance that students can write by. Close the blinds, have some fun music playing, and it’s weirdly fun… and not any different from a normal day content-wise

Using Glow Sticks? Have students “pop” them and tape them to their writing utensil. After awhile, they need to trade writing utensils with someone that has a similar color glowstick.

Using Blacklight? You can go big (Like a full “transformation” that Jessica at Magic Of Teaching did) or keep it simple and hand out highlighters for a special effect under black light (and tricking them into making sure they have all the important information written down)

3. Parody Songs

This is my personal favorite.

A parody song is always catchy, always informative, and gets stuck in your head so you can’t forget what you learned.

Find them on YouTube about almost any topic, and then you can share to your class page for a fun review. I like to find ones that they will cringe at and then get caught singing outloud

Create your own! Or have your students. This is a great way to review big concepts and vocabulary. I usually offer students extra credit and don’t pressure them to perform, but it definitely adds to the fun!

4. Doodle/Color Notes

This is another trick plan because color (like music) helps students remember content more specifically and doodling is proven to activate both sides of the brain as they learn, making stronger neural pathways (*NERD ALERT*)

Create pre-made doodles You can purchase doodle notes on TPT, or just draw in some scrawl-ed pictures yourself. I would pre-write all of my notes the 10 minutes before class, add some pictures, make some copies, and then my students were SO DISAPPOINTED when I didn’t have them and they would make their own!

Let them doodle Supply markers, colored pencils, or even crayons and tell them they can’t use pens/pencil for the day. They’ll get more creative and won’t even complain about note taking

Create One-Pagers They can turn the notes into a sketchnote “one-pager” where they create a whole page around the main ideas and turn in for a grade. Templates are available online (or just wait and I’ll have one coming for you!)

5. Challenges

The easiest way to get most middle/high schoolers attention is to offer up a challenge. I’ve found these ideas work best in teams and I have teams create names/mascots to last the whole quarter.

Scavenger Hunt Post your notes/slides around the room with no guide as to what order they go in. Release the teams to create their own full note set. Fastest team to complete each section (with review) gets candy/sticker/extra credit

Jeopardy! I don’t want you to take any time prepping this, just finish a couple slides and ask a question. Teams should write the answer on a whiteboard and the first one to raise the correct answer gets the most points (2 or 3). Every other answer gets 1 point. Most points at the end of class wins.

Relay Races Same as above, but you have notes/slides with blank spots and each team sends one person at a time to fill in any blank. First team with all correct answers wins.

make note taking fun again! 5 ways to easily modify your lesson for more engagement

Mix Up Note Taking Days

This is just a tip of the iceberg. To get students to take notes without complaining doesn’t have to take a ton of time or effort from your lesson. All of these can be done for free/cheaply with only a little switch up in the classroom.

Do you have another way you like to mix up note taking days? I’d love to share on the next installment!!

Until Next time!