Your Child's Class Notes Are Horrible - Here's How to Improve Them


Do your child's notes look like the absent-minded scribbles of a long-time doctor? If this sounds familiar, this blog post is for you. Check out our top tips for ways to help improve your child's class notes.

Better Notes, Better Grades

Is your child is having a hard time in school? Are his or her class notes a jumbled mess of illegible scribbles and doodles? Don't despair - note-taking is a skill - which means it can be improved. Here are a few ways that you can help your son or daughter take better class notes.

A student taking notes in class

Provide the Right Tools

Your kid can't take good notes if he or she doesn't have access to the necessary materials. So make sure that your child has a clean notebook, loose-leaf binder paper, and the necessary dividers and/or folders to help organize those notes. You might also want to provide correction fluid, erasers, highlighters, and a ruler. Although the ways you can help may be limited, you can definitely make sure that your child has the right school supplies. And maybe double-check that he or she is actually bringing said supplies to school. Just to be sure.

Improve Listening Skills

Note-taking starts with listening, right? Your child listens to the teacher talk, identifies the most important points, and writes them down, meaning that it's impossible to successfully take notes without strong listening skills.

There are a few things you can work on with your kid to help improve his or her ability to listen. The first is attention. Is your child easily distracted? Unless he or she has an attention disorder, for which you should consult a professional, you can improve your child's attention the way you would any skill: with practice. You can also play memory games like ''matching pairs'' or have family reading time with no distractions (like phones) allowed in order to improve this skill.

Another key part of listening when taking notes is the ability to identify the most important parts of what is being said, or those concepts that are worth writing down. After all, your child won't have the time (or writing speed) to copy down the teacher's lecture word for word.

One way you can work on this ability with your child is to teach him or her cue words to listen for that might indicate an important point, such as:

  • For example…
  • Just to review…
  • This is important…
  • You should know…
  • Write this down…

You can practice this skill at home by telling your child a funny story or explaining an interesting topic and afterwards asking what the most important points were. Pro tip: As kids love to listen to embarrassing stories from your life, that might be a good place to start.

Introduce Color-Coding

One great way to make notes more effective is to introduce color-coding. This can easily be done with a set of highlighters or colored markers. For example, you can recommend that your child underline vocabulary words in yellow, important dates in green, and key points in orange. Or use fuchsia, cerulean, and tangerine. It doesn't matter. As long as the approach is consistent throughout each page of notes, it will help your child keep track of different types of information.

This trick should be especially enticing to any creative kid… or just one who likes to play with gel pens.

Color coded class notes

Try Cornell Notes

A popular note-taking strategy promoted by many teachers is the Cornell approach, invented by Cornell University. This method is controversial - some love it while it makes others run away screaming - but it's worth giving it a try to see if it helps. Writing Cornell notes requires that your child give each section of notes a short title and summarize them at the bottom of each page. This strategy makes a student think more critically about note-taking instead of utilizing a more free-form style.

The Cornell strategy is an especially good choice if you have the type of kid who likes organizing things. If your child is on the messier side... maybe consider choosing something else.

A Cornell Notes template

Monitor for Improvement

At the end of the day, it's important to remember that you can only do so much to change your child's note-taking abilities. Teach what you can and then let go, giving your kid the opportunity to practice and improve on his or her own. After some time, look for any change (hopefully positive!) in your child's grades. And don't forget: you can always ask for help. No parent is an island, after all. Though we wouldn't mind escaping to one every once in a while.

For an accessible, engaging homework help resource, check out's library of over 70,000 lessons in every subject.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
January 2019
k-12 parents

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