7 Easy Steps to Cornell Notes

7 Easy Steps to Cornell Notes
multi-step direction practice

What makes a note taking system effective?

The Cornell System is a highly effective note taking strategy. It saves time and helps students better comprehend the lecture or material. Originally developed by Cornell education professor Walter Pauk as a note taking method for schools, many people easily adapt this method to take notes while researching material, during client interactions, or even during business meetings. Below are 7 easy steps to Cornell Notes.

Research also shows that handwritten Cornell Notes are the best for recall. Students who learn early on to take Cornell Notes are better prepared to take useful notes during class than those who merely copy the powerpoint. Using a consistent note taking system helps students use their notes for reference and study as the format is clear and effective. While there are many note taking techniques, the Cornell System outshines them all. Here is how you can try it out for yourself.

Here are 7 easy steps to Cornell Notes

  1. Divide your paper into 2 columns with a row across the bottom. Some people like to write a giant capital I on the page, slightly offset to the left to divide the paper.
  2. Write the course/meeting name at the top along with the date and subject.
  3. The narrow left column is the Key Ideas Column. You put subheadings or cues here, which can later be phrased into questions. Ask yourself who/what/when/where/why questions.
  4. The larger right column is the Note Taking Column where you write main points, phrases, outlines, charts, and diagrams with enough words that you could google the ideas later for more information. Write on only one side of the page.
  5. The bottom row is the Summary you write within a few hours of taking notes. Write a broad summary of the main ideas in sentence format.
  6. Reread the previous summary before the start of the next class or meeting. Study your notes for 10 minutes a day for 7 days to add it to your long term memory. 
  7. Use your notes to study by covering the right side and answering the questions from the left side using the right side as an answer key. You can either answer them in your head or write them out on another sheet of paper. Or exchange notes with others and check to see if any important information is missing or needs clarification. Add to notes as needed.

Use the Tailored Search Terms listed below to see examples of Cornell Notes for a variety of subjects and personal styles. One example I like is how a one student color coded the main ideas and then made sure her summary had one sentence for each color block of notes. Cornell Notes can be used in math to show sample problems, definitions, and formulas. 

Tailored Search Terms: Cornell notes sample images

Want to see how to teach students to take Cornell Notes? Use this example then modify for your note taking needs. It is for a 6th grade science class, but could easily be viewed by anyone 4th grade and up. Like I mentioned in my last post, you can use Ted Talks to practice note taking skills. 

If you are teaching students how to take Cornell Notes, I suggest showing them a blank template while talking through the 7 easy steps to Cornell Notes. Next show them a few examples of notes taken in various subject areas so they can see the usefulness across different courses. Then watch and practice with the video example. Lastly give them a short passage or page of a textbook to take notes on. Compare your notes to theirs and make suggestions. Get students in the habit of regularly taking and using Cornell Notes for increased comprehension and recall.

Note taking really is a lost art. Read my previous blog for note taking tips. 

Want more note taking tips? 




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Table Talk: What challenging subject could you comprehend better if you took Cornell Notes? Would you rather take notes on paper or on your phone?

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