This activity is a variation on the Who Wants to be a Millionaire television show. It’s a fun, effective way to cover the Cornell method of note taking–a definite winner. You could certainly use variations on this to fit your needs.
First, I briefly lecture and demonstrate the Cornell method of note taking. [See the On Course text, Chapter 4, for a description]. I then give the students a short, 1-page excerpt from a textbook. Psychology worked well for me, but marketing or social studies would work just as well.
The students are instructed to read the article silently, and I then orally ask them some complex questions about the article, which most cannot answer.
I then break the class into groups, each student taking along a pencil and the article. In each group, members quickly choose 1) a reader, 2) a recorder (to whom I give an easel-pad sheet and a marker), and 3) a reporter. The groups are then given this task: The reader is to read the article aloud while the rest of the group members follow along, highlighting or underlining key words. Group members are then invited to make their own Cornell notes about the article, paragraph by paragraph, while the recorder puts them on the easel-pad sheet. Next, the group constructs questions based on the notes, while the recorder notes them in the recall section of the sheet. The reader is then asked to read the questions to his group members until all feel that they thoroughly know the material.
Next I collect all of the notes, articles, and transparencies and ask the reporters to sit in the front of the room to play a version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. They are the “representatives” for their group, who can earn up to 6 extra credit points for their group by correctly answering questions about the article. As the questions are asked, each reporter has the choice to answer the question or use one of three lifelines: 1) ask a group member, 2) ask all the group members, or 3) refer to their Cornell notes, which they created. Each lifeline can be used only once.
As I ask the questions, lots of cheering and giggles ensue. If one reporter answers incorrectly, the question goes to the next person. Correct answers = 2 points; incorrect = 0 points. After each reporter has had three chances to answer questions, they all return to their group. We then discuss how their note taking helped or did not help them, and what they might have done differently in the Cornell method to learn the material more effectively. The first time I did it, one group got 2 points, one got 4, and one got 6, so we had a good discussion about the variations in note taking. This exercise also challenged them to use the Cornell method at least once and then analyze their performance, all in a fun productive way.
–Beverly Walker, Coordinator of At-Risk Advising, North Central State College, OH