3 Steps to Strong Note Taking

By on February 9, 2015

I think we can all agree that students struggle to take useful notes. If we are honest, we probably struggled as kids, too. The greatest challenge for students is knowing what is important and how to make meaning from a text. Students who I have interviewed about note taking tend to have the same comment: "There are so many words on the page. I think everything is important." Without a purpose for reading and skills to help them read for deeper meaning, students will continue to transfer information (like copy machines) into their notes without understanding what they are reading. Here are 3 Steps to taking stronger notes in class and at home.

Step 1: Purpose-Driven Reading
Reading assignments (large and small) should begin with a prompt or performance task. Prompts help define for students a clear purpose for reading, maximizing their comprehension and retention of critical content knowledge. Students do not have to answer the prompt each time they read. The prompt can be used to simply guide students to know what is and what is not important in a text. Read our Purpose-Drive Reading teacher guide to learn more about setting a purpose for reading. 

Because creating original prompts takes time, consider using our Prompt Builder which provides 160 CCR-aligned prompts. You can also use review questions and comprehension checks in your textbooks for purpose-driven reading. Use the questions to formulate a prompt that can be given to students before they read. Ask students to analyze the prompt using LiteracyTA's Prompt Analysis skill. Then, ask them to complete a Reading & Writing Plan  

Step 2: Create a Reading & Writing Plan
Once students have analyzed their prompts, they should build a Reading & Writing Plan. A Reading & Writing Plan is a graphic organizer that helps students create an outline from the reading task. The plan helps students focus on the essential ideas in a text you (the teacher) wants them to learn. Find a template for a Reading & Writing Plan on the Prompt Analysis skill page.

Step 3: Read, Reread, and Complete the Plan
With their plans in hand, students can actively read their texts. They will be more successful identifying important ideas because they have a roadmap that tells them how to interact with the text. The outline gives students important structure that they use to organize the important ideas in a text. Once the Reading & Writing Plan is complete, students can use them during class discussions, they can use them as study guides, and/or they can use them to write a paper. The ideas are organized and recorded. Students are ready to speak or write about the essential ideas in the text.

To learn more about teaching note taking skills, visit our teacher guide on Note Taking

Do you want your students using technology when taking notes? Jose Lucero wrote an eCoach last year that explained how to mark digital texts and take notes with apps.

It's never too early to register for LiteracyTA University summer session, 2015. Register today!

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Literacy Standards In Action

We've mapped our literacy lessons and reading, speaking, and writing skills to state standards, Common Core, and NGSS. The standards are "the what" to teach. Our lessons are "the how" to meet the expectations defined by the standards. Click on the links below to view our quick reference table that maps standards to literacy lessons.

Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; and cite specific evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital resources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
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