My first rant – Copying notes from the board

I came across this post by the 25 hour day blog (through Miguel’s of course).

I love it though! However……

One of my young ladies said this morning, “What have we got to do this for? None of the other classes have to?” This after I had spent some considerable time creating an activity that I thought was pretty good. Turns out she only wants me to provide notes.

“Do you know what notes are?” she says. “We read the textbook. you write notes on the board, and we copy them down. Like they do in the other classes.” Hmmm …….

I love the blog environment, and all the great ideas and discussions. Trouble is then I have to go back into the real world of my 19th century classroom.

This sort of thing REALLY irritates me. In my first year (2004) at my previous school, half way through a lesson (History of course) a student suddenly asked me to put notes on the board for them to copy down. I was stunned. I had NEVER been asked that before. Why would a student WANT to copy down notes – I would rather watch paint dry (well…may be a slight exaggeration, but you get my drift). I stopped what I was doing at the time, quietly collected myself and then asked the student why. At this stage a few other students started piping up about it. It seems that taking notes made them feel secure in the knowledge that they had the correct information for the exams. “Well how about I give you notes in a handout and we process it in a way that might be interesting?” I replied. For some that wasn’t good enough either. When it came down to it some of them just didn’t want to think. They wanted it easy. Just give us the information please, we don’t actually want to learn! They had been indoctrinated into this way of thinking by many teachers in the school. I did things quite differently and some of them werem’t used to thinking for themselves. Needless to say, once they got used to me they came around and surprise, surprise they actually did quite well in the exams. Despite not ever copying notes from the board.

Unfortunately many teachers out there still write up boards of notes for students to copy down. Some of these students will still eat that sort of thing. Others, usually those who think outside the box, will challenge it. I know why teachers do this and it is not because they think it is good learning. It is because they need to ‘get through’ the content and have exams hanging over the heads all year. I don’t think this is an excuse though. You can still get your students succeeding in the exams and provide enaging, thought provoking and worthwhile opportunties for learning (and yes sometimes these things are mutually exclusive). You just need to be willing to take risks.

Unfortunately a school system built on exams as a form of assessment will not encourage teachers to take risks.

But I think it is so important that we do.



  1. I have this same issue in a chemistry class. One of the ways I am trying to combat this is by assessing the students using practicals instead of written tests. This might be more difficult in a history course, but some form of alternative assessments in which the students have to process new information using the concepts from the unit.

  2. Thanks Kyle.

    I think just plugging away with what you know is best for the students – and they will soon come around. I was just shocked at the time, because I had never come across that request before.


  1. […] first rant – Copying notes from the board | elearnz I found this post (My first rant – Copying notes from the board) from a history teacher who is having problems getting away from lecturing.  Not because of his […]

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