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Note-Taking Accommodations

When note taking is difficult, the problem is often due to a poor learning environment. This means that a child's ability to get the information he needs is impaired because of factors going on (or not going on) in the classroom around him. Fortunately, there's something called "accommodation."

"Academic accommodation" is a formal term that carries with it both legal and moral implications. In the case of a child with a disability, accommodations are required by law under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But there's also an inclusive meaning to the term that goes beyond the special education population. The concept of accommodations is inherent in our society's idea of education -- reaching each and every child -- and many progressive educators believe it's the responsibility of the teacher to accommodate every child regardless of labels. So, disabled or not, the following are simple modifications to the classroom that can help every child take better notes.

Classroom Placement
Kids who have difficulty taking notes are often the most distractible. For these children, it's a reasonable accommodation to make sure that their seats are not near a window, the door, or in the middle of the class, but up front where they can make eye contact with the teacher and have the best chance to receive the information.

Secret Cues
Those who daydream tend to miss out when it's note-taking time. It's a reasonable accommodation to work with the teacher to develop some sort of non-verbal and non-punitive cue to help your daydreamer come back to the task at hand. A simple tap on the shoulder often works wonders.

Tape Recorder
If you've got a listener, send him to class with a tape recorder. (He'll use less paper, and save a few trees.)

Note Taker
For some of us (or at least for me), the whole task of taking notes is an utter waste of time. Ask the teacher to designate someone to take notes for the child being accommodated -- and be done with it. This is considered a reasonable accommodation under the IDEA and ADA and is provided by the vast majority of universities in this country. (God bless that!)

Visual Supplements
Many kids learn by seeing. It's reasonable for you to approach your child's teacher and explore the idea of including visual aids to supplement a lecture. This is an accommodation that will ultimately benefit all of the kids in the class.

Bulleted Outline
Much like the visual supplements, it's reasonable to ask the teacher to provide your child with a simple, bullet-point outline of the topics for the day. Furthermore, you might suggest that he pass this out to all the kids in the class. This allows everyone to see where the class is going and it gives an external structure for those beautiful wandering minds. This is an accommodation that's really just good teaching.

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