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There is a great debate among educators about whether notetaking is necessary – studies show we forget 40 percent of what we learn within 24 hours, even when it’s written down. Yet, there is no generic solution to academic success for all students. Some students learn better by applying concepts, but if you do not take notes in class, your mind may wander. We offer 5 note-taking strategies for students and advice for educators.

Happy students taking notesLearn Shorthand

In 2017, we do not expect students to learn official shorthand, but using your own abbreviations can be a helpful strategy. When you’re scrambling to copy a teacher’s slides word-for-word, your mind is not processing what you’re writing. Rather than jotting every little thing down, listen for key concepts and briefly summarize them. However, it’s important to remember what your own abbreviations mean later on.

Use Pen & Paper

In colleges across America, you will find the majority of students bring laptops to class rather than notebooks. For many middle and high school students, this is not allowed – which actually may work to their advantage. Using a pen and paper to take notes may be a traditional method, but it allows you to draw graphs and pictures that further enhance certain concepts. If do not type fast, using shortcuts can be more difficult on a computer.

Laptop Use

On the other hand, if you have the chance to take notes on a laptop, there are some benefits to doing so. Note-taking requires speed and with a laptop’s word-completion function, long words can get spelled out immediately. There’s the possible spell-HELP element too. The U.S. History teacher says “father coflan” but it’s not spelled out. Your laptop may find “Father Coughlan”. You have an immediately correct spelling and possibly a helpful link to find out more about the historical figure.

With laptop use, links to future research become easier and for crafting papers/reports, the copy-move-paste function is hugely helpful. For kids who want or need to share their notes with a teacher, parent, fellow student or tutor, electronic notes are almost essential. Laptop use in the classroom, once considered “nerdy”, is absolutely appropriate and almost certainly leads to better success.

Now, if a school-teacher forbids laptop use, we like traditional note-taking refined by the computer. Take the handwritten notes and synthesize them on a library computer that afternoon or on a home computer that evening. The best school teachers don’t fear laptop use; they teach with relevance and flair to keep kids’ attentions. Online distractions don’t tempt students who are truly learning from that teacher each day.

Be Organized

For each class, you should have a separate folder or three-ring binder. This will help to prevent notes and handouts from getting mixed up. When you have notes from math and history class on one piece of paper but stow them away in your math folder, you’ll be lost when it comes time to study for history. Organization is one of the keys to success.

Cornell Cue Card Approach

Walter Pauk, a professor at Cornell University in the 1950s, created the Cornell note-taking system to help students in his class. Essentially, students make flash cards of their notes. One side of the paper has the cues, or questions, and the other side has the answers. For example, the left side of your paper might say, “What is the process of photosynthesis?” The right side would say, “When plants convert sunlight to energy and make food.”

Review Your Notes

One of the most common mistakes students make? Taking notes, but not utilizing them! Oftentimes when you write every word down, it’s overwhelming to go back and try to study those notes later. During class, focus on the key concepts that your teacher highlights rather than cramming details on the page. Most importantly, if you’re going to take notes, actually review them outside of class.

Advice for Teachers on Note-Taking

The responsibility of proper note-taking is also shouldered by educators. If you present a PowerPoint of 25 slides with paragraphs of text, your students will inevitably try to write down every word. If you keep it brief, so will they. Some tricks to help your students include:

  • Fill-In-The-Blank Notes: Some teachers shy away from providing a handout, for fear their students won’t focus in class. However, when most of the notes are there, but students have to fill in missing keywords, they are more likely to pay attention.
  • Provide an Outline: Much like a sports coach, you do not want to give away your whole game plan. Instead, provide an outline of the most important concepts that your students can take brief notes on during class.
  • Use Your Words: Simply tell students what they do and do not have to write down.

The bottom line is that note-taking is still relevant today. We encourage students to do everything they can to enhance learning in and outside of the classroom – that includes tutoring! Contact us today to learn more about our academic services.