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Note Taking 101

Note Taking 101

Pat Hensley

Years ago, when I was in high school, my note taking consisted of copying every word the teacher said. I didn’t really comprehend anything but I was writing it all down. Then when I got home, I would reread the information, and underline the important things. What a lot of time was wasted by doing it this way. The reason I did this was because no one taught me to take notes. I remember that teachers expected me to take notes but no one really told me how to do this. It was assumed that I would know how to do this. When I went on to college, I basically took notes the same way until a friend borrowed my notes and told me how much time I wasted doing this and that there was a better way.

Recently I have seen some plurk and twitter messages as well as other complaints about students taking notes in class. Some teachers are complaining that the students aren’t taking notes and others complain about the notes that are taken.

I decided that my students needed to learn about note taking, why we take them, and the different ways to take notes. Just because I like taking notes a certain way, doesn’t mean that it is the best way for all students. In fact, some of my students even taught me different ways to take notes that I never thought of doing.

So here is a little process that I use but can be adjusted and modified to meet the needs of my students.

1. Discuss what note taking is and why we take notes.

2. First I start off with guided notes where I leave out key concepts and words and the student fills in the blanks from the lecture, movie, text, etc.

3. Next we look at the guided notes and review the answers. We also discuss why these notes were taken and not others.

4. Then we talked about different ways to take notes. Here are some note taking strategies:

a. You can summarize key concepts in your own words.

You want to write down any words in bold or ones the teacher writes on the board. Definitions are important.

c. Fold your paper so that 1/3 is folded the length of the paper. During class, record your notes on the right (larger side). When you review your notes, summarize, or jot important points down on the left (the smaller side).

d. Record important concepts. Then go back and map them out to show connections.

e. Student suggestion: draw a picture of what is happening.

5. Then I found an interesting article that appealed to most of my students and had them take notes in the best way they thought would help them.

6. Some of the students actually tried one way and when it was too hard or confusing for them, they tried a different way.

7. After everyone was done, I let them compare their notes. If the class was large, I broke them into smaller groups with at least one person who tried each strategy. I noticed that some of them explained why they picked that strategy and why it worked for them. I also allowed some of them to add to their notes from what they learned from others.

8. I asked them to review their notes for homework.

9. The next day, I asked questions about the article and did not let them look at their notes. Many of them were able to answer most of the questions. I think they were able to see the connection between note taking and success in the classroom.

I don’t feel that my lesson in note taking should end there. In the beginning, I usually tried to have them practice their note taking skills this way with at least one of the content lessons each week. As the year went on, they needed less practice and became quite proficient at it.

Since I taught a special education class, I was always thrilled when one of my students would come to class laughing because they had better note taking skills then their friends in general education classes. As a college bound student back in the late 70s, I would have loved for someone to have taken the time to teach me to take notes.

Do you have any suggestions to help students learn note taking skills? Please share!

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