Teaching Note Taking Skills

by Jimmie Lanley on August 9, 2010

note takingI’ve been introducing Sprite to taking notes. Of course, I don’t lecture. But note taking is still an important academic skill.

My primary goal is to help her capture the main ideas for narration later. When a passage is detailed or long, taking notes becomes necessary. Otherwise it’s easy to forget or get things mixed up.

I also think that the very act of taking notes helps you to focus and remember what you’re hearing.

Since it’s a totally new skill, I’m giving a lot of specific directions. Here is my procedure:

  • Read orally while Sprite takes notes.
  • Stop and repeat key sentences saying, “Okay, that is important! Write that down.”
  • Emphasize the use of abbreviations and symbols as shortcuts. For example, before we begin a passage, I have her think of the words that I’ll be repeating over and over — maybe a person’s name or an event. Then we select some abbreviated ways to indicate those repeated words. Also I taught her the tricks such as w/ for with and w/o for without. I’ve said time and time again, “Don’t write a or the.”
  • Work on physically arranging the information on the paper through numbering, arrows, bulletted lists, etc.  But don’t get bogged down in numbering or outlining. Think mind maps or clusters where relationships are easy to see without complicated numbering systems.

In the past, I’ve frequently given her very specific directions for highlighting, saying, “That’s a key idea. Let’s highlight that in pink.” I’ve also given her color suggestions to help keep the information visually distinct. For example, using yellow to highlight the presidents’ terms of office and blue to highlight their accomplishments. My hope is that she will internalize these directions and eventually be able to meaningfully highlight text on her own.

I also like some of Education World’s Lessons on Note Taking.

And the very end of this Note Taking PDF has a great example of condensing notes with symbols and abbreviations. It also shows how individual note taking can be!

Have you done any note taking with your children? Any tips to share?

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