Better alternatives to copying notes from the board

Better alternatives to copying notes from the board

Teachers’ rationale for getting students to copy notes from the board is usually:
  1. Students need the information in their books
  2. It calms students down and they are quiet

While both are valid goals, there are ways to achieve the same outcomes while also giving students the opportunity to rehearse a much-needed skill. 

Here is a list of alternatives to copying notes from the board prepared by logonliteracy's Catherine Black. You should select whichever activity that matches your purpose.

  • Give students notes. Then ask students to turn them into sentences.
  • If the assessment is an oral presentation with point form palm cards, give the notes in sentences and have students extract the key words to write down. They can then use these key words to construct full sentences orally.
  • After reading/viewing/listening, provide students with points out of order. In pairs, students agree on the sequence of points. Individually, students write these in sentences.
  • Instead of giving students information to copy, provide the information in a series of sentences/non-sentences. Students then re-write the non-sentences to make them make sense.
  • Provide a list of both true and false statements about the topic. Students decide which are true and false, and then re-write the false statements to make them true.
  • Students are given a list of sentences. Using conjunctions, they join pairs of sentences so the number of sentences is halved.
  • The notes are provided without any punctuation. Students re-write the notes with correct punctuation.
  • Provide a 100-word paragraph from which the students must create a 50 word paragraph while maintaining the key points (this is quite difficult and would have had to be previously modelled etc)
  • Put key words from a recently taught topic randomly all over the board. Students compose a paragraph including all the words. They check they have included all the terms + their sentences must make sense.
  • Students are given the notes in paragraphs. They use a graphic organiser (which reflects the structure of the text) to extract the key points. They end up with a summary of the notes in their graphic organiser.
  • Provide students with a completed graphic organiser (containing all your vital information). They then use the appropriate section of How to write what you want to say … (the blue book) to use sentence starters and connectives to put the information into sentences and paragraphs.


Thanks, Catherine Black, for compiling this list of many ways that students can make copying from the board more meaningful.


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Better alternatives to copying notes from the board