Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Deciding what is important in your text

Every week a couple of students take notes on the class, at home they then select organize the most important concepts and bring copies to distribute among the other students (1 to 2 pages). The idea is for the notes to be easily understood by those who were not present in the class. Therefore, they have to produce an autonomous text (as opposed to personal notes). These summaries are read in the beginning of the next class, in order to resume the topics started on the one before. Collectively, everyone makes comments to improve the written text. Through these comments, the content is reworked, and the difficulties in understanding the topic of the previous class are assessed. The teacher intervenes, suggesting reformulations. In order not to make the activity a boring routine, after several practice sessions, the reading and analysis are done at home, so the students and the teacher can suggests comments and observations in the start of the following class. The summaries and student's notes are saved, and the students can reuse them as revised notes on the subject of the class, which helps them to organize the reading material for the final exam.
At the beginning of the course, before the students are responsible for making these summaries, the teacher records the first and second class, and in the third, he or she brings copies of his or her own written notes, one in a narrative format and the other in an expository format. They read and analyze them, reflecting on the differences between narrating and exposing, on the various functions of writing (mnemonic, communicative and epistemic) and on the curriculum, which is reworked in spirals while using these summaries. Then the teacher proposes that students take turns to take notes on the remaining classes. The teacher's participation in recording the first classes works as a model to follow, and shows his or her compromise towards the group.
The learning objectives of this activity are many: to make the students face a writing assignment directed towards actual and real recipients, that they go over the issues discussed in the previous class and determine their relative importance, that they can revisit the concepts that presented any difficulty in learning, that they experience a situation of collective review as a model that can be transferred into other situations, and that they be aware of different text levels in the teacher's correction criteria. Moreover, this activity aims to reflect on the difference between narrative and expository texts, on the need for autonomous writings, on its functions (external memory, communication at distance or in time, representation and knowledge development). 

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