Study Skills Support
What is note-taking?
Note-taking is the process of recording important information from a text, lecture, or other learning opportunity in order for the information to be reviewed and remembered at a later time. There are many different formats for note-taking. Unless there is a specific requirement for following a particular note-taking format, students often find the most success choosing the format that seems to work the best for them.
Successful note-taking requires the successful integration of many skills: listening, comprehension, summarizing/synthesizing, eye-hand coordination, writing and spelling skills. Students must be taught each of the skills separately before they can be successfully combined into one process.
Note-taking from written material is only slightly less complex, but it does offer students the opportunity to reread the information several times to determine its importance.
Talk with your son or daughter about the note-taking strategies he/she uses and determine what is working most effectively. Discuss which classes use notes on a regular basis and how each teacher uses those notes.
If your child seems to lack a note-taking structure, teach the two column (Cornell Method) or split-page note-taking format initially.
Some teachers have students “copy” notes (from an overhead, PowerPoint presentation, or the chalkboard) while others teachers expect students to “create” notes from the discussion. Work with your child to recognize and understand the distinction.
Encourage your child to use a separate section of his/her notebook or folder just for note-taking and to keep those notes separate from other papers for the class.
Suggest your child reread/review class notes within 24 hours of taking them. This increases the chances the information will be remembered and understood in context
During the review process, encourage your child to underline, highlight, or mark in some manner, the key ideas (important, names, dates, vocabulary).
Help your child to study for tests/quizzes using class notes. This helps to solidify the value in taking good notes.
Periodically, ask to read your child’s notes to ensure their sensibility and comprehensive nature, also their legibility.
Web Resources on Organization:
Common Q/A on Note-taking:
1. What if my child refuses to take notes?
Talk with your child about the reason for not taking notes. Often times, refusal to take notes stems from an uncertainty “how” to take notes. Work with your child’s teachers to determine the note-taking format used and then spend time teaching that strategy to your child.
2. How can I help my child with note-taking?
Explain the value and use of note-taking to your child’s future academic success. Determine your child’s understanding and use of note-taking. Build their knowledge base from that point. Occasionally, spend time reviewing your child’s notes to determine their quality and accuracy; make adjustments accordingly. When studying for tests or quizzes with your child, develop questions from the notes to emphasize the relationship between note-taking and content understanding.
3. When should my child begin to take notes?
While this will vary some from class to class, students in the intermediate grades at the elementary level will begin to learn the rudimentary skills of note-taking. Students will be taught to paraphrase information from text sources and to summarize ideas in their own words. Students in the fifth and sixth grade will often take notes from social studies discussions or text. These notes are often taken together as a class and are largely teacher-generated. As students move into the junior high, they will begin to transition to the ability to take based on their perceived importance. However, this skill is not fully developed until the latter years of high school and with a great deal of practice.
4. What if my child cannot keep up with the note-taking pace of the class?
While this can be a legitimate problem for some students, very often it is a case of the student trying to write down too much information. Work with your child to read/review class material first to capture the big ideas and then to listen for which of those ideas are repeated. Those become the most important notes. Using meaningful abbreviations and shortcuts to written text also help to speed up the process. (Encourage them to put their IM skills to a practical use.) If multiple students are struggling with the rate of note-taking in the class, encourage your student to advocate to the teacher to slow down.
5. What is the most important understanding I can help my child to have about note-taking?
Note-taking is a tool for
actively engaging the student in the learning process. It helps students listen
more effectively in class and remember more information after class. However,
if students are not going to read and review their notes on a regular basis, the
most significant value of note-taking has been lost. Therefore, as often as you
are able, emphasize the importance of rereading and processing class notes.