Taking notes on succeeding in the classroom | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Taking notes on succeeding in the classroom

While difficult to comprehend for those in the high school and college, Cameron Allen is new to note taking.

Also difficult to understand is why the 10-year-old enjoys the new-found phenomenon.

“I like it,” Cameron said. “If you forget a lot, the notes remind you.”



Sierra House is instituting the Paths for Success program which provides students the skills for becoming more efficient in school. With a Colorado school district providing the only example of how to implement note taking, time management and various levels of questioning abilities into the elementary level, Sierra House is in unchartered territory.

Paths for Success is an offshoot of the Advancement Via Individual Determination program, which helps prepare middle and high school students for college.




AVID serves more than 65,000 middle and high school students at more than 1,200 schools across the globe.

“It’s just teaching students on how to be good students,” said fifth-grade teacher Karen Nighswonger. “It’s the importance of taking the time of teaching children to be organized and the importance of giving them strategies that will make the transition to middle school easier.”

South Tahoe Middle School teacher and AVID coordinator Barbara Cloutier said the teaching of student skills at the elementary level is important.

“It’ll make a major difference,” Cloutier said. “We’ll be able to do more critical thinking which is so critical at the upper levels. It’s skills they have to have for high school and it organizes them and helps them realize they have the skills they need to go to college.”

South Tahoe middle and high schools are both national demonstration sites for the AVID program. Mark Romagnolo, principal at Sierra House, worked with the AVID program at the high school before taking a administrative position at the elementary level.

Knowing that AVID was useful, he asked a program representative to notify him when it would seep into the elementary level.

Over the summer, Romagnolo sent Nighswonger and teacher Val Mansfield to a four-day AVID conference in San Diego. About 4,000 educators showed up and only 58 were registered as elementary educators, said Mary Catherine Swanson, executive director for AVID.

Swanson has been approached countless times by elementary teachers and administrators wanting AVID at their level. After trying to refer the educators to different programs, she finally caved in when Cherry Creek Unified School District took two years to write a pilot program associated with AVID and piloted it last year.

Fuel for critics could be how early educators are trying of prepare fourth- and fifth-graders for college. Swanson, who created AVID in 1980, has a reply.

“What we know is that most kids go to college because it’s a given within their family,” she said. “I knew from the time I was born I was expected to go to college. What we need in the school districts is to have that expectation for all our students.”

Romagnolo wanted that expectation at his school. Sierra House bought about 90 day calenders, which arrived in the third week of school, to help the nearly 150 fourth- and fifth-grade students with their organizational skills.

Down the line, he would like to see Sierra House teachers, those like Nighswonger and Mansfield, to help other Lake Tahoe Unified School District elementary instructors lace Paths for Success elements in their curriculum.

The decision was split among fifth-grade students in Nighswonger’s class about which was worse: note taking or calender upkeep.

“It helps you get good grades because if we forget stuff, we look at our notes,” Kyle Wilkinson said.

— Contact William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com.


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