Top 7 Note Taking Tips

Top 7 Note Taking Tips

Every day students are taught information they are expected to learn, process, and apply during testing. But, if students aren’t retaining what they’re hearing in lectures or reading in books, they won’t be able to recall the information and use it in real life.

Writing accurate notes and creating effective study guides is an important tool for students to learn. Yet, note taking isn’t part of the academic curriculum in many schools, and parents and teachers often overlook this key study skill.

Therefore, we must teach our students strong note taking strategies to help them excel in school and life.  

Here are our top seven note taking strategies:

Note Taking Starts Before Class

Before students even get to class, they should review their materials or look up the topic they’ll be discussing in class.

Understanding what their teacher will be presenting and why they’re learning it gives important context to the information, and it helps students understand the connection between the ideas better.

It’s also easier to take notes if a student is already familiar with the main concepts and terminology.

Write Notes Instead of Using a Computer

Students who write their notes do better on academic tests than students who use a computer because the method of recording the information changes the way the student handles it.

Learn Why Handwriting Is Important Here

Computers allow students to document what their teacher says with more speed and accuracy than writing. However, since they’re more likely to type the words verbatim, they may not process the information in a way that helps them learn it. Typing restricts a student’s ability to evaluate the information and put it into their own words. Processing and reframing the content leads to a better understanding of the material.

In addition, handwriting allows a student the freedom to take notes in a variety of ways.

Write Legible Notes So You Can Read Them Later

Notes are valuable only if the student can read them later and understand them.

Students should practice writing legible notes using clear, concise language.

Listen for Verbal Cues From the Teacher

When teachers talk about a topic, they give cues or prompts in various ways to identify which information is important.

Teachers may emphasize key works and concepts using tone and diction. They may give verbal cues highlighting a particular point or written cues featuring important terms, phrases or diagrams by writing them on the board. In addition, teachers may use physical cues such as facial expressions or hand gestures to emphasize a point.

Students should pay close attention to what teachers say, but also how they say it.

Use a Note Taking System that Works

Studies show that students who implement solid note taking strategies take higher quality notes and recall information better. This is especially true for students with learning disabilities.

Cornell Notes uses a double entry method that’s highly effective and easy to replicate. Here’s what the format looks like:

Cornell Notes Template

Don’t want to make the Cornell Notes grid yourself? Use this printed version from TOPS or the Google Docs Cornell Notes template!

Other popular note taking methods include mind mapping (using visual cues to connect the relationship of ideas), outlining and charting.

Learn to Use A Mixture of Elements for the Best Quality Notes

According to a study presented in Higher Education, the quantity of notes is related to higher test scores. Students can increase efficiency by writing in short sentences and using abbreviations as well as visual prompts, such as diagrams or graphs.

See Our List of Common Abbreviations Here

Students can also use formatting such as white space, indentation, underscoring and symbols to highlight important concepts. Place a questions mark next to ideas that need further clarification or an exclamation point by talking points you want to remember!

The focus should be on taking notes that are concise, organized and complete, rather than cutting out valuable information for the sake of reducing word count or working within a specific format.

Review Notes as Soon as Possible

Once the lecture is over, students should review their notes to fill in gaps, clarify ideas that are incomplete or unclear, and write down questions they have for their teacher about concepts or information that were confusing.

It can also be helpful for students to review notes with other classmates, since they may remember information that a student missed or didn’t understand.


About Skills 4 Life:

Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers a broad range of pediatric occupational therapy services in the Boulder & Denver area to help your child master age-appropriate developmental skills, become more independent, increase academic success & develop confidence. The experts at Skills 4 Life specialize in handwriting, keyboarding & executive function coaching, but also work with children on social & emotional learning, motor skills, self-regulation strategies & activities of daily living. Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers your child a safe, compassionate environment to learn the critical skills they need to be successful. Learn more about our team & services at www.skills4lifeot.com, or you can contact our office by email at karina@skills4lifeot.com or by phone at 303.351.1828 for a free consultation.

Abbreviations for Note Taking

Abbreviations for Note Taking

Here are some of our favorite abbreviations for note taking:

General abbreviations:

aka = also known as, another name for…

a.m. = morning

bk. = book

b/c = because

ch or chpt = chapter

co. = company

diff = difference

e.g. = for example

esp = especially

hw = homework

i.e. = in other words

impt = important

info = information

mtg = meeting

no. or #= number

orig. = original, origin

p. or pg = page

p.m. = afternoon

poss. = possible

ppl = people

Q. or ? = question

re = regarding

rev. = review

vs. = against

w/ = with

w/o = without

yr = year

+ = and, also, in addition

– = without, minus

à = leads to, makes

~ or approx. =approximately

> = greater than

< = lesser than

# = number or pound

$ = dollar

@ = at

= increase, growth

= decrease, fall

* = important, special

∴ = therefore

^ = change

English Abbreviations:

abbr. = abbreviations

adj. = adjective

def. = definition

eng = english

lang. = language

para. or ¶ = paragraph

subj = subject

History Abbreviations:

cap = capitalism

dem = democracy

econ = economy

govt = government

hist or hx = history

lib = liberal

pol = politics

U.S. = United States

Math Abbreviations:

alg. = algebra

deg. = degree

e. = evens

eqn. = equation

max. = maximum

min. = minimum

o. = odd

prob. = problem

qty = quantity

% = percent

* = multiplication

Science Abbreviations:

Bio = biology

Chem = chemistry

sci. = science

yd. = yard

hr. = hour

min. = minute

sec. = second

g. = gram

mg. = milligram

m. = meter

mm. = millimeter

cm. = centimeter

l. = liter

v. = volume

temp. = temperature


About Skills 4 Life:

Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers a broad range of pediatric occupational therapy services in the Boulder & Denver area to help your child master age-appropriate developmental skills, become more independent, increase academic success & develop confidence. The experts at Skills 4 Life specialize in handwriting, keyboarding & executive function coaching, but also work with children on social & emotional learning, motor skills, self-regulation strategies & activities of daily living. Skills 4 Life Pediatric Occupational Therapy offers your child a safe, compassionate environment to learn the critical skills they need to be successful. Learn more about our team & services at www.skills4lifeot.com, or you can contact our office by email at karina@skills4lifeot.com or by phone at 303.351.1828 for a free consultation.

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This guest post is written by Dr. Aviva Bass-Huh, a licensed clinical psychologist in Boulder, CO.

We all want our children to do well at school and it can be frustrating when you watch your child show up and do the work but then not test well. For many students, test anxiety hinders their ability to perform. When children are anxious, it affects how they think, what they feel in their bodies and what they do. These three parts interact, and a change in one influences the others.

For example, just hearing about an upcoming test can trigger the fear of failure and paralyzing self-doubt in a child. If the student thinks they’ll get a bad grade, they may become nauseous and start to fidget. As a result, their anxiety escalates further, and the child feels like all the material they’ve learned has slipped out of their mind, preventing their ability to perform well on the test.

This cycle is fairly common. Fortunately, there are some simple steps students can take to manage their test anxiety. Here’s the top three ways your child can harness their anxiety and use it to perform better on exams:

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If you utilize these tips along with bringing a positive attitude and a well-rested and well-fed YOU to school, then your test-taking skills will be unstoppable!

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Having a study space that is both comfortable and fully equipped with school supplies can make doing homework more efficient and fun.

Start by deciding where you like to do your homework. Some students prefer to study in a quiet, private environment while others prefer to be in a centrally located space (like the dining room or family room) around other family members. (more…)