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Note-Taking Techniques for Academic Success

Janelle Cox

How many times have you said, "Take out your notebooks, it's time to take notes!" and all you hear is a collective "ugh" from your students?

You are not alone - many classrooms across the globe are hearing the same collective "ugh" from their classrooms. Note-taking can be a drag, but rest assured, we all know that it is one of the best ways to ensure good grades.  But how do we get our students to warm up to the idea that it helps us understand what we read?

Easy: Provide them with note-taking techniques and give them the choice of how they record their information.

If traditional note-taking has not been successful in your classroom, then try a few of these techniques with your students and help them find which method suites their learning style the best.

 The Mapping Method

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Concept maps, mind maps, webs, whatever you chose to call it, this method of note-taking is the best for students who are visual learners. Students write one word or idea in the middle of the paper and draws lines to connect other words or ideas that relate to one another. For example, a student would write the topic "qualities of a friend" in the center of the paper. Then branch out from that topic and write a few qualities; in my class, pretty, nice, funny, trusting, common interests, etc.

The T-Chart

The T-Chart is used to examine or make a comparison to a person, an event, object, or a situation. If students were taking notes on Rosa Parks they could compare what life was like in 1956 to life now. This graphic organizer will help students easily examine two facets of a topic in an efficient way.

Venn Diagram

The Venn diagram is another graphic organizer. This technique has two interlocking circles which help students visually make comparisons to a person, object, event or topic. This way of note-taking shows students three things: Information about one specific topic on the left, and on the right, as well as what each topic has in common in the center interlocking circle. Students who use this note-taking technique have the opportunity to see what two topics have in common, versus using the T-chart, which only compares two.

The Frayer Model

The Frayer Model is a note-taking technique that uses a graphic organizer to build vocabulary. This four-square model prompts students to define a term, describe its characteristics, provide examples, and non-examples. For example, the topic is "mammals." The definition is a warm-blooded vertebrate animal. The characteristics would be, covered by hair and gives birth to young. Examples would be man and monkey, non- examples would be snake and duck.

Boxes and Bullets

Boxes and bullets is a note-taking technique that many children are very familiar with. This where students write down the main topic or idea in the box, and then provide a variety of supporting details under each bullet. For example, students would write the main idea in the box, then under each bullet would write a supporting detail.

 The Outlining Method

This method is pretty much like the traditional method. It requires students to be sharp and very organized. For the outlining method to be effective students must use dashes or indents when writing important key facts they want to remember. There is no need for numbers or letters, all students have to do is skip lines and indent when taking notes.


-        Mammals

-         - warm blooded animal

 - two kinds

- man

- monkey

The Charting Method

The charting method for note-taking is when you format your paper by drawing columns and labeling headings. As students read or listen they record the information into the appropriate category (heading). This method is great for students when they have to study for a test. All of the information is presented and organized for them. Here is an example of what the charting method looks like.

Person                                      Event                                                Significance 

Rosa Parks                            Montgomery bus boycott              Arrested for not leaving bus

Do you have any note-taking techniques you would like to share? Please share with us in the comment section below!

Janelle Cox is an education writer who draws on her 15 years of professional experience in the education system. Janelle holds a master's of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, where she provides educational information and lesson plans for teachers around the globe.

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