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March 26, 2019

3 min

Method Schools

5 Tips to Note Taking

What is the most effective way to take notes?

Taking notes is not an easy task for most students. Most will not want to do it while others will struggle as they stare at a blank piece of paper not. At the same time, research tells us that when we write something down, we will remember it better. Here are some of the best concepts that have worked for me and my students over the years, and that can help you be better to note takers.

Organize Your Page

One way to organize your page is the Cornell Method where you divide and conquer. Draw a vertical line through the first 1/3 of the page and stop 3 /4 of the way down. You will have two columns, one small and one large. The first smaller column is labeled cues; this is for items like the main theme, dates, names, vocabulary words, and questions. The large column, notes, is for the topics, subtopics, ideas, facts, drawings, and information that correspond to the first column. At the bottom, draw a horizontal line and label that summary. You summarize the above and add any extra information that comes later; this will also allow for easier studying and finding information easier.

Chart It

Instead of having columns, you can use a blank sheet of paper and create a chart. The Mind Mapping or diagramming where you draw out your notes by using or creating your own graphic organizers. That is, create a concept map of the lecture or lesson, or a chart or flowchart of the main themes. Here is how: Write the main idea in the middle of the page, add in the subtopics of ideas, facts, concepts, and any dates or relevant information in bubbles or underline, use lines to connect each bubble to the main idea. This is like a detective’s evidence wall of who, what, where, and when. Add in any additional details of each of those ideas with lines connecting to the subtopic. Creating a visual display will help you remember and organize your thinking. I highly recommend this style of note taking for the visual learner.

Audio Notes

Junior high through college students can read capture important notes into a voice recorder. Use the principles of main ideas, subtopics, and details. When you study, you can playback. Playback is great because you can take it anywhere and review while you're on-the-go; this works great, especially with auditory learners.


Write out what needs to be memorized on index cards such as vocabulary terms, foreign language, and math formulas, and say them into a voice recorder; playback while taking a walk. You can also add this to any of the other note taking ideas. This is one of the best ways to study! You are using all four main learning parameters, auditory, visual, read/write, and kinesthetic (movement).


How to do a basic outline with the main ideas, subtopics, and details:

  1. Main theme: main thought or principle.
    1. Subtopic A: place your first supporting concept, fact, or idea.
    2. Subtopic B: place your second supporting concept, fact, or idea.
      1. Details: place your further supporting idea, example, or illustration.
      2. Details: place more of the ideas and principles you have gleaned from the text.

What to Include

When you are taking notes from a lecture or reading a book, listen with a focused purpose. What is it that I need to know about this? Write what is important down, so you will remember and find it later. You need to be actively thinking when you read or during a class lecture so you can catch what is being taught. Write down the key ideas, facts, and concepts, but not full sentences. It may help you to create mental pictures and draw from your previous knowledge as you take down your notes. Make sure you are identifying key terms and anything you do not know.

When you are taking notes, the idea is to have a record so you can remember and study what you have learned in your class. What is the teacher lecturing about or what is it that you are to take away? Comprehension is the goal of reading as well as our main takeaway from the class. Being a good note taker will be your key to success in school, college, and beyond!

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