Help Your Students Take Notes

Conversation Class

Conversation Class

There are lots of small ways instructors can demonstrate the value of having good notes and work with students on developing better note-taking skills. Here’s a list to start your thinking.

  • Identify key concepts in the day’s lesson: “Now here’s something you need to have in your notes. Listen carefully.”
  • Challenge students to retrieve things from their notes: “Look at your notes from November 5. What have you got about X? Nothing? That’s not good.”
  • Provide a definition, pause, and give students one minute to rewrite it in their own words. Ask students why it might be important to do so.
  • At the beginning of the period, give students three minutes to review their notes and summarize them in a sentence. Have several students share their summary, which the class then compares, revises, etc.
  • At the end of class have students trade notes with somebody sitting near them and use their partner’s notes to review the class session. Ask them to identify what was the same and different about their notes and those of their partner?
  • For frequently missed exam questions, have everyone find the date when that content was covered and see what they have in their notes that relates to the question. Ask someone who got the question correct to read what they have in their notes.
  • Tell students that any notes they take in class today can be used when they take the quiz tomorrow. Follow-up at the end of class by asking how that changed listening and note-taking.

Like most other skills, note-taking can start with theoretical knowledge, but it takes practice to become an efficient and skillful note-taker. What are some ways you encourage your students to see the value of a good set of notes? Please share in the comment box.

Reference: Cohen, D., Kim, E., Tan, J., and Winkelmes, M. (2013). A note-restructuring intervention increases students’ exam scores. College Teaching, 61 (Summer), 95-99.

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