Wednesday, August 12

Teaching Teens: Note-Taking for High School & College

Look for more in-depth discussion of this topic and more in Through the Door: Homeschool to College Success! This book & worktext set will help you and your high school student breeze through the steps of college and scholarship applications, as well as brushing up on study habits and life skills. The worktext includes activities, worksheets, and planning pages, and accompanies the book.

This is part of our series - Five Days of Homeschooling Teens.  Read the whole series...

It's difficult to remember specific details without good notes.  The process cements learning further by involving all three modalities of learning:
  • Auditory - hearing the information
  • Kinesthetic - writing the information (by hand)
  • Visual - reading the information
Follow these four rules for note-taking, and you should see marked improvement in your academics!
  • Be prepared.  Reading the material before class will give you an idea of key points to listen for, as well as which information is probably going to be on the test.  (Hint - If it's in both the lecture and the book, it's probably important!)  Read your previous notes, too, to see if there are any gaps -- any questions you need to ask the teacher to clarify.
  • Write neatly.  Having notes won't help if you can't read them!  Find a system that works for you - doodles, abbreviations, charts, etc - and stick with it.  Write neat enough to be able to interpret your words six months later.  
  • Stay organized.  Keep a separate notebook for each course, and date your notes, so that you can easily find information.  Start each new day on a new sheet of paper.  This will allow you to go back and add extra information, as needed.
  • Write down questions.  As you're reviewing your notes, write down any questions you have so that you remember to ask them later (either during another class or via email).  Record the answers in your notes.
Many students are taking laptops to class now, which changes the note-taking dynamic, but keep in mind these digital age tips... 
  • Avoid the PowerPoint Presentation.  If the presentation is just a text-based of what's being said aloud, then just write down what you're hearing...unless you enjoy having your brain overload from too much stimuli and shut down.  Glance up every now and then, or whenever the teacher refers to a graphic that is being presented.
  • Write by hand.  The trend may be toward taking notes on laptops, but this actually reduces your ability to internalize the information.  Using old-fashioned pen and paper engages several senses and an area of the brain that facilitates learning.  Plus, you're having to pick and choose what to write (eg, abbreviate), so you're more in tune with what's being said.
There are as many different forms of note-taking as there are students.  You'll need to find what works best for your learning.  Here are three methods of note-taking...
  • Outline method.  Use the lecture topic as the main heading, with subtopics and supporting facts.  The focus is on core ideas.  Your notes should look clean and just like an outline by the end of the class period.  This is more appropriate for social studies and language arts courses.
  • Chart method.  Similar to the outline method, this style involves multiple headings with supportive facts and tends to go into more detail.  Your notes should look like an outline.  Because of the depth, this is an appropriate method for taking notes from the reading or when you can go at a slower pace than a typical lecture.
  • Hot-mess method.  This method involves writing down notes, in depth, at breakneck speed.  Slop it all out on one sheet of loose leaf paper, and then go back and rewrite it into your actual notes after class.  This method takes a bit longer, because of the rewrite, but allows you to get more detail and gives you a built-in review time (as you rewrite).  Because you are handwriting the notes twice, it helps to cement the information.

Through the Door also includes:
  • Tips for Talking with Teachers & Professors
  • Choosing a College Major
  • Six Inventories (skills, interests, values, and more) for Guidance Choosing a College Major (these are included with your purchase)


  1. Such an important and too often overlooked skill!

  2. Hot-mess method - yep! I like this one. Get it all as fast as possible.

    I will be sharing this with my daughter who starts dual credit classes in a couple of weeks. These thoughts will be really helpful.

    1. LOL No one taught me that method...I kinda came up with it myself, so retained naming rights. I'm sure, however, that there are a lot of people who do the same thing. It works! :) I had a job in college taking notes for other students via disability services, so it was more important to get all the info for those kids than it was for it to be neat. Re-writing it up to turn it in to DS for redistribution actually helped me be a better student since it reinforced the material...and I got paid. TL;DR: Just do it. :)

  3. A good thing to share with my lad. Teach him how to take good notes.


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