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Do you use the "Catch Up" Active Learning Technique?


I'm thinking about incorporating "Catch Up" into my fall 2017 classes.


As I understand it, "Catch Up" works as follows:


  • At a logical breaking point in class, ask students to turn to a neighbor to share notes and ask any clarifying questions for a few minutes;
  • Take two or three questions from a couple of pairs of students;
  • Assess the situation - if there are only a few questions, address them and move on. If there are many questions, slow down and/or step back to review.

I'm interested in hearing from others who have used this technique... has it been successful for you? How have you tailored it to work in your specific class?


Hello Stephanie,


I haven't tried catch up but I have a friend who swears by the anonymous question method where students are required to write down one question either after class or before class about something they did not understand.  She sifts through these quickly and then answers the most burning questions.  I do a notes comparison activity before the first exam to let them check their note taking abilities.  As with all activities, students need to be trained to ask, compare or comment.  But it does help.


Let me know what you decide.




Hello Steph,


I have not heard of this method. However, it sounds to be a very effective way to get the students to be alert in taking notes. What I am experiencing is that a great percentage of my students don't know how to take notes. They tend to want to write every word they hear.






Essie, have you tried modeling good note-taking strategies? I use PowerPoint to give students bare-bones bullet points and expect them to fill in the main points. Sometimes I will stop and ask students to share what they wrote down for a particular point. This gives other students a chance to check their own notes and see if they are missing something. 


I also take the time to caution students typing their notes that they want to take notes, not transcribe. I will also provide them with links to articles explaining how note-taking supports learning.


I use something similar, but not for assessing progress. It's primarily for keeping students engaged. I typically stop at some point in class and provide a specific task/question and have students work in pairs to find the response. Usually they are using the MindTap mobile app to access the text and find the answer. Sometimes I have them write it down and hand it in, but more often I just take oral responses after giving them a few minutes to work together. This also gives me a chance to walk around the classroom for more immediate, personal contact with students in the far corners of the classroom.


So I used to have an assignment that addressed note taking.  I'd have the Academic Learning Center come to class to give a presentation on Cornell Notes. 


Before our concepts book changed, I would assign a Cornell Notes assignment to cover Chapter 1.  I would explain that reading chapter 1 and really reading it would make the rest of the semester easy.  They would have a general idea about the material we would cover in the class.  I would refer this chapter as the foundation of the house of knowledge that we would build during the semester.  


It was always interesting.  I could see what students thought was important.  I could catch misconceptions early, make a note on their notes and take a note to be sure to cover that material in greater detail when the course got there.   


It was a great exercise and I learned a tremendous amount about how the students approached new material.  Some had drawings others just words.