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.