Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.
Note-Taking Techniques & Strategies
Before widespread use of the Internet as a research tool, a student's note-taking ability in class was seen as both a valuable academic skill and a necessity for preparation. It can be difficult to encourage your students to take notes, especially if many students believe they can simply ''look it up later.'' The following note-taking strategies have been designed to counter this attitude and instill the idea that taking notes is worthwhile.
To start with, here are a couple of tips to get your students moving in the right direction:
- Legibility: Students shouldn't be concerned with writing legible notes. Penmanship, spelling, and grammar don't matter in note-taking. As long as the student understands what they wrote when they review it, the way the notes look to others is inconsequential.
- Saving Notes: Notes should be filed and preserved, not stuffed into a desk or locker after class. If possible, require students to keep past notes as a part of your overall assessment score the same way you may require students to keep textbooks in good shape.
- Digitizing: Periodically digitizing handwritten notes is a great way for students to retain knowledge and plan for the future. This process will also force them to clarify information and continually reassess their personal note-taking style.
Now we will discuss three note-taking strategies:
- Taking notes in class.
- Taking notes while reading a text.
- Keeping notes organized and searchable.
Taking Notes in Class
The first mistake many students make when taking notes is taking too many. When students try to write everything down, they often give up because it's nearly impossible to keep up.
Try the following techniques to ensure that your students' notes are both relevant and reviewable.
- Preview a lesson before the lesson begins.
- Write key terms and concepts on the blackboard. Tell students to write down the terms, even if they don't know their meaning. Make a point of telling students to listen for these terms during the course of your lecture.
- Review the lesson at the end of class.
- At the end of class, review key terms and points so that students can fill in any gaps in their notes.
Taking Notes on a Text
When students are alone with a book or researching on the Internet, it can be difficult to stay focused. Asking your students to prewrite questions as a way of priming their notes can narrow this focus. Tell students to write the following questions on the top of their notepaper.
- What am I looking for?
- Why is it important?
- Who, what, when, where?
Students should constantly refer to these questions as they read. They can also draw a rectangular box underneath the questions where they can write new vocabulary words to look up later.
Keeping Notes Organized and Searchable
- Date and Time: Students should always time and date their notes and include the course name, teacher and a short description of the overall topic. This information should be recorded in a master index list so that it's easier to search for later. For example:
- Thursday, June 16, 2016, 8:30-9:20am-English 101 - Ms. Smith - Thesis statements
- Thursday, June 16, 2016, 9:30-10:20am-AP Geography - Mr. Thompson - Tundra
- Friday, June 17, 2016, 2:30-3:20pm-Calculus I - Mrs. Jones - Linear functions
- Color coding: Color coding notes makes it easier to find specific information quickly. However, this is best done after the initial note-taking has taken place. If students are constantly switching pens, they may miss out on important points. In order to avoid confusion, basic color coding should be uniform for the entire class. Use the following highlighters:
- Green - Names
- Blue - Dates
- Yellow - Key terms
- Pink - Events
You can encourage students to use colors beyond these to highlight other areas they feel are important.
Note-taking is an important skill, therefore students should keep the above techniques in mind when they take notes. Keeping notes organized and color coding are just two ways students can make their note-taking not only worthwhile, but also an invaluable resource for reviewing class content.
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