Note-taking: Make it work for your students

Alexandra Recasan

Alexandra Recasan is a Marketing Specialist of 123ContactForm, the web form and survey builder. She is in charge with research for the educational market while gathering and sharing valuable insights on how technology and education can blend in a meaningful way.

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A structured learning system is crucial for students nowadays. Faced with a myriad of information sources, they have to develop an effective strategy to filter and make sense of it. In this context, note-taking comes in an as a handy way to save and review the most important points and ideas.

"With all the technology at our fingertips, the options vary from the traditional methods of pencil and paper to taking down digital notes by using laptops."

Since learning styles differ from one student to another, there are plentiful ways they can take down notes. With all the technology at our fingertips, the options vary from the traditional methods of pencil and paper to taking down digital notes by using laptops. Using a pen and paper can help students remember better although typing allows them to take a larger quantity of notes in a shorter period of time. Wikipedia has a great table that compares a great deal of online note taking tools - check it out!

With all this wealth of alternatives, students need teachers’ input on what to use for better note taking, since many of them try to write down every word the teacher says while missing the most important aspects of a lecture. Exposing students to different strategies and formats for taking notes will surely help them work with the information you’re sharing while organizing it in an effective manner.

Read along and see if the next strategies work for you and your students. Adapt them to any subject and use them in any format, including handwritten notes and notes typed in a computer document.

Cornell method

The Cornell method is a highly-regarded system that allows students to record and review information in an easy-to-use format. There are no disadvantages or challenges with this method because of its simple structure. While offline, one has to do all the page dividing; online you can find all sorts of templates to use right away. The right column is larger and designated for the initial notes. Choose sentences and phrases that you want to remember or utilize later for this section. The left column, which should be smaller than the right is used to record key points, terms, or any other cues that will help in recalling the information at any given time. Use the summary section at the bottom of the page to provide a wrap-up of what you’ve learned. Summarizing can help students work through the piles of pages when studying time comes.

Mapping method

"Besides handing out note-taking strategies, take time to point out to your students the key concepts in the day’s lesson."

In order to improve the natural way your brain processes new information, try using association of ideas. A quick way to do this is to create an online mind map to make connections and develop ideas. Its purpose? To help you visually identify relationships between concepts, phrases and key terms. The flow goes like this: Place the main idea of what you’ve learned in the center of the page. Add supporting terms as you continue to read. Use lines or arrows to link the supporting concepts to the main idea - it is up to you to determine what those relationships are and to make an accurate assessment or connection between the concepts. The use of colours and other visual elements - Word SmartArt for example - favours the learning process. Maps are not restricted to any pattern but can be formed in a variety of creative shapes.

Outline method

Although it requires more time to complete, the outline strategy allows students to view important concepts in an easy-to-read format. The recording process is simple - the first sentence for each group should consist of a main concept. Any related terms, phrases, or ideas are written underneath that sentence. The information which is most general begins at the left, with each more specific group of facts indented with spaces to the right. The relationships between the different parts is carried out through indenting. You can also use numbers, letters, or Roman numerals if needed.

Developing better note-taking skills is a work-in-progress process. Encourage it all the way by creating the proper context. Besides handing out note-taking strategies, take time to point out to your students the key concepts in the day’s lesson. That way they’ll be able to write down the essential takeaways and improve their data selection process. You can also challenge them to find certain pieces of information from their past notes in order to make them work with already learnt concepts.

One last tip; to better the note-taking system and make it suit your classroom needs, be sure to follow-up at the end of each semester by gathering feedback on how the applied strategies changed note-taking and overall learning.

How do you develop note-taking in your school? Let us know in the comments.

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