About halfway through, I noticed that most of them were just staring at me. There I was, showing them step by step on the board exactly how to organize their papers, which are worth fifteen percent of their final grade, and they were just looking at me, all glassy-eyed.
I paused for a moment, then said, "You realize that I'm not just doing this for my heath, don't you? I'm showing you how to organize your essay. I told you when we started class that you'll need to understand and refer to this template when you start writing it."
More staring. I put the chalk down.
"Why aren't you guys taking notes? Do you expect to just remember this a week from now, both of the organizational templates I’m presenting, as well as the examples of how to organize the interior paragraphs?"
All of a sudden there was rustling, a flurry of activity, notebooks being opened, etc. Some students were obviously doing this because everyone else was, but some looked a bit sheepish.
One student said, "Well, I'm never sure what I should write down."
(The answer in her case is, to never write anything down.)
I looked at them. "I have a fool-proof way that will tell you exactly when you should be taking notes."
They looked back at me, curious. I relished the long, expectant pause.
"My mouth is moving," I said, and then I went back to discussing the outline on the board.
Freshman need to get in the habit of taking down everything. They're not experienced enough to pick and choose. They just need to write, write, write. Write down notes on everything that happens in class. Some of it will end up being useless, of course. But they can't know that unless they can have their notes to look over, so they can figure out what's relevant and what isn't. They come to us entirely incapable of discernment.
This is not entirely their fault. They're used to their high school teachers teaching to the test. "THIS IS IMPORTANT" the high school teachers say. Those same teachers give them a study guide with everything bolded that needs to be bolded. Others give them the test ahead of time.
But college doesn't work like that. Or at least not consistently. I don't give my students study guides. I could, but I don't. I think they're counterproductive. Students need to take notes on class lecture and discussion, and not just passively sit there waiting for the professor to hand them something that tells them what they're supposed to know. I always tell them that an essential part of studying for a test is preparing their own study guide, which is in part a product of a meticulous review of their own notes.
And still they sit there, not taking notes. And still they screw up.
And fuck 'em.