As an AVID school, WMS teachers in all subject areas frequently use Cornell Notes, an effective notetaking method that requires students to organize their thinking in such that it can be re-visited and transferred from short term to long term memory. Supporting this schoolwide initiative, math teachers in all three grade levels have made Cornell Notes their own by aligning them with the FSA Item Specifications, ensuring that all tested standards are covered in a strategic way throughout the year to best prepare students for success.
WMS math teachers have spent tremendous collaborative time creating these simplified and straight-forward two-sided AVID notes from FSA materials and achievement level descriptors. These pre-made, focused notes increase instruction and practice time in classrooms. Each day during class, math teachers begin the lesson by discussing the essential question and student learning outcome. On the front side of the AVID notes, each teacher models examples of three to five new problems. Students copy the work the teacher models on their own sheets. While working each problem, the teacher pauses along the way to question students’ understanding. Periodically, teachers check student understanding using white boards, having students work the modeled problems independently. All along the way, teachers formatively assess student understanding and re-teach as necessary. After working through the notes on the front together, students then complete the back of the notes sheet for practice.
Math teachers also utilize these AVID notes in an effort to teach students HOW to study for math. To review, students need to rework the problems, not just memorize steps or vocabulary. To practice, teachers have students cover up the work they did in class the day before, reworking problems in their notes for added practice. The structure of the notes provides students time to process their learning and teaches them how to use their notes later when stuck. The notes also have space for students to jot down questions about their learning to ask their teacher later.
Most teachers also post a worked-out copy of their teacher notes in Microsoft Teams as a reference point for students. Teachers even make sure ELL students are provided copies in their primary language.
Undoubtedly, this straight-forward and organized structure of instruction and note-taking adopted and finessed by the math department has greatly impacted student achievement at WMS. AVID notes make math learning stick.