5 Note Taking Tips

5 Note Taking Tips
books for education

Why is note taking a lost art?

Teaching kids to take good notes and use them seems to be a lost lesson plan these days. So many of my tutoring clients think note taking is copying a slide or worse yet, taking a photo of a slide. While there is not anything wrong with doing either of these things, it is not really note taking. Here are 5 Note Taking Tips to help you teach a child or yourself to take good notes from a lecture or a textbook.

  1. Use a consistent system, such as Cornell Notes
  2. Write down main terms and key questions from text or lecture
  3. Leave space to add to notes later
  4. Watch for things that are repeated or emphasized
  5. Use notes to review and study, adding additional notes as needed

Good note taking requires practice. Learning and using a system will help you take better notes. If the teacher requires a particular system be sure to use that, but if not, try Cornell Notes. In the next blog post, I will introduce you to Cornell Notes if you need a system to try. I have successfully taught students as young as 4th grade to take notes well. Note taking also keeps students actively engaged in their learning and increases academic performance.

Many high school and college students still do not understand how to take good notes or how helpful it is to review your notes before the next class or to study for a test. They often copy down what is on a slide but do not understand why the material is being emphasized or how to organize a note page.

Writing down main vocabulary for the unit and key questions will help you organize the notes and fill in as you learn about them. These can be bullet point types of notes as long as you get enough information down to be helpful. Many main terms will include important people, places, events, dates, formulas, and vocabulary. These can be defined and turned into study questions.

Additionally, listening for repeated important terms will help you know what to write down. When reading a textbook, look at the section headers as they will often contain important terms. You can practice with a short Ted Talk video, a class lecture video, or a section of a textbook. Using a video will be helpful because you can stop and start it as needed until you learn to take notes while listening. You can also rewatch it several times and fill in what you missed. You could consider doing this as a family and comparing the notes when finished, helping each other out to add missing details.

Other ways to fill in your note sheets are to trade note sheets with a classmate and suggest additions to the notes, turn notes into summaries or key questions, and quiz yourself or a classmate using your note sheet. If you are unsure of something, do some research and add to your notes. 

Lastly, learning to take good notes is useful beyond the classroom. Taking a phone message or relaying some information from the boss will be more successful if you listen well and take good notes. It helps create deeper memories and helps you summarize what you heard. Whether you take notes on a piece of paper or on an app, use these 5 Note Taking Tips to improve your skills. 

Table Talk: What class taught you how to take notes in your younger years? How is note taking used in your current season of life? 

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