What Is The Best Way To Take Notes?

What Is The Best Way To Take Notes?

by Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed.

Taking good lecture notes is absolutely essential to academic success. However, one of  the best uses of these methods is not for taking lecture notes, but for taking notes while reading. I am big fans of adapting the columned note-taking method originally developed for lectures (often called Cornell Notes) for this use.

Two-Column Notes

To set up columned notes the student divides or folds the paper into two sections, labeling the left one-third “key words” and the right two-thirds “notes.” On the left the student records the main idea, and on the right he jots down an explanation using short phrases.

This note taking method helps kids to be more independent learners. Your child can fold his paper vertically on the line between the key words and notes so that he can quiz himself and not rely on someone else to assist with studying. With only the left column visible, he asks himself, “Who was Paris?” and then says the answer. He checks his reply by flipping over the page. He continues to review in this manner, repeating and retesting himself on the terms he cannot automatically recall.

Older students can take this method one step further. Instead of simply recording a key word or concept, they write the chapter subheadings in their text books as a question. For example, if the heading is “Natural Selection and Adaptation Modify Species”, the student would jot down “How does natural selection and adaptation modify species?” They then add details in the right column that answer the question. Voila — the student now has a ready-made study guide!

To get an added bang, studies show that if students summarize their notes within 24 hours of initially recording them, they’re more likely to remember the information for a test.

Three-Column Notes

Three-column notes are highly effective for younger students and visual or tactile learners. In addition to the first two-columns, a third section for a drawing is added. By drawing a picture of the concept or term, children are hooking a concrete visual image to the information they need to remember. This is one powerful strategy!

Regardless of the note-taking method used, many students are under the impression that “less is more”. While being succinct is important, the fact is that the more notes students take, the more information they will be able to recall later. In this particular case, “more is more!”

Ann K. Dolin, M.Ed. Her award-winning book, Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework, offers proven solutions to help make homework less of a chore for the whole family. Learn more at www.ectutoring.com.


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