On page 22, Mary introduces an idea that I used to view as somewhat of a waste of time, but now I see that it’s the key to avoiding some of the madness mentioned above. Mary has each student number every page in the notebook before ever using it. Some of you may be thinking, “but I’ll still have students who don’t put the correct stuff on page 8 with the rest of us.” That’s the beauty of Mary’s index system. Throughout the year, maybe near the end of units, Mary has students index their notebooks, recording all of the page numbers that belong to a specific topic. I can imagine myself saying, “Okay, now I need to you find every page that relates to our Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy storyline. Write DMD in your index and list all of those page numbers there.” While it’s more inconvenient if the student has entries scattered throughout the notebook, he/she can still index all of those entries. I can also imagine adding lines in the index for specific scientific practices or even crosscutting concepts. The easiest of these would be models. You could have students index every page on which they have created a model and periodically add to this line in the index.
On page 91, Mary makes a key distinction between note taking and note making. She asserts that note taking is a record of the teacher’s thinking while note making is a record of the student’s thinking. There are several natural places where this idea fits into the storyline approach. The most obvious is in the Incremental Modeling Tracker (IMT) which contains a summary of what is learned in each lesson. In a recent blog post, I discuss using Mary’s What? So What? Now What? format to reflect on each lesson/activity. By having students record their thoughts before discussing them with the group, each student gets a chance to note make before the group offers additional ideas that can be added as note taking (since not everyone will have reached the same conclusions from any given activity or lesson).
Even in cases where some Disciplinary Core Idea elements need to be presented via direct instruction, students can use the What? So What? Now What? format to note take in the What? section and note make in the other two sections. We can explain to students that “Systems of specialized cells within organisms help them perform the essential functions of life.” (from LS1.A for high school) and then have students consider “So what does this mean for the phenomenon we are figuring out?” It seems that note taking leads to memorization while note making leads to sense making (the goal of the storyline approach and the vision of the Framework).