Our District's KTL Initiative Is Grounded in Research-Based Best Practice

Burlington Public Schools' Keys to Literacy initiative highlights note-taking strategies grounded in research-based best practice. 

For the past five years, Burlington Public Schools teachers have been involved in ongoing Professional Development to implement the Keys to Literacy (KTL) Comprehension Routine in their classrooms.  The KTL Comprehension Routine, which has been implemented in hundreds of schools throughout the country, emphasizes the integration of comprehension, writing, and study strategies into existing content. The high school and middle school have been involved in KTL for multiple years and the elementary schools started KTL implementation during the 2017-2018 school year in grades 4-5 and this year for grades 2-3.

One of the aspects of KTL that staff has been focusing on with students is note-taking. With this in mind, I was thrilled to hear a recent educational podcast highlighting the research surrounding best-practices in note-taking. Jennifer Gonzalez’s Cult of Pedagogy Podcast shared eight takeaways from her review of three decades worth of research on note-taking. As I listened, I heard a number of the strategies from KTL that Burlington teachers are working to instill in students.

Mr. Conley utilizing two-column notes with his 6th Grade English class at MSMS.

Mr. Conley utilizing two-column notes with his 6th Grade English class at MSMS.

Here are a few of the research-based practices mentioned in the podcast that are part of our ongoing KTL work with staff:

Note-taking matters

“Whether it’s taking notes from lectures (Kiewra, 2002) or from reading (Rahmani & Sadeghi, 2011; Chang & Ku, 2014), note-taking has been shown to improve student learning. In other words, if we want our students to remember more of what they learn in our classes, it’s better to have them take notes than it is to not have them take notes.”

Explicitly teaching note-taking strategies can make a difference

"Although some students seem to have an intuitive sense for what notes to record, for everyone else, getting trained in specific note-taking strategies can significantly improve the quality of notes and the amount of material they remember later. (Boyle, 2013; Rahmani & Sadeghi, 2011; Robin, Foxx, Martello, & Archable, 1977). This is especially true for students with learning disabilities.”

Adding visuals boosts the power of notes

“Compared with writing alone, adding drawings to notes to represent concepts, terms, and relationships has a significant effect on memory and learning (Wammes, Meade, & Fernandes, 2016).”

Scaffolding increases retention

“Teachers can build scaffolds into their instruction to ensure that students take better notes. One very effective type of scaffold is guided notes (also called skeleton or skeletal notes). With guided notes, the instructor provides some type of outline of the material to be covered, but with space left for students to complete key information.”

If you are interested in seeing more on the ongoing KTL work in Burlington, check out our Keys in Burlington Blog!