A strategy to take better notes in school requires effort. Half the battle with students is helping them understand the reasons for needing to take and interact regularly with their notes!
Many students write down everything they see or hear in the classroom, and they’re overwhelmed by the sheer volume of notes that they have to study (these students often highlight most of their textbook reading, too). Other students say that they have excellent memories and don’t need to take notes because they can easily recall information.
Neither strategy is effective. Click to learn how your student can become a world-class note taker!
The goal of effective note taking is to help recall what has been learned and retain that information over time. German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1895 conducted some of the first experiments on memory and recall, and spaced learning. He developed the forgetting curve, which shows how information is lost quickly over time if there is no strategy or effort to retain it.
So what’s the remedy that allows students to take better notes?
Ebbinghaus’ research suggested that the best ways to improve memory were to better represent the material that needed to be retained (including the use of mnemonic techniques) and to improve methods of repetition (via active recall). What does that mean for today’s students?
Encourage your child to think of questions relating to the material, as he or she drafts notes throughout the day. Including thoughtful questions throughout his or her notes is an effective way to provide context and perspective within the material.
Know the who, what, where, when, and why!
When taking notes, your child might find it helpful to view the information through the lens of Who, What, Where, When, and Why. This approach engages the brain and places information in context, while encouraging a comprehensive, conceptual understanding of the information and its function.
Review notes daily…
The rate of forgetting is minimized if students interact (re-read/discuss/write/engage) with their notes within 24 hours. A second repetition for a shorter period of time within a day brings recall back up to 100%. A third repetition within a week for an even shorter time brings recall back to 100%.
Use strategies to take better notes!
As part of our 14-session Reading and Study Skills Program, which is designed for middle school and high school students, we teach the Cornell Note-Taking System, which was developed in the 1950s as part of a university preparation program (AVID). Effective note-taking is interactive and involves using the original notes many times over to build memory of the content, rather than seeing note taking as just a one-off copying activity. The important features of this system, which allows students to take better notes and more effectively capture content, are displayed in the image below.
As you can see, information is compartmentalized and made easier to use as a study tool. A student can cover part of the page and study the questions, trying actively to come up with all the different components, or vice versa. This technique is tremendously effective and, once mastered, can be used all throughout college and beyond. Everything is in context and easily understood. Our programs also teach how to pay attention to visual or vocal cues from the instructor, and to know what’s important and what’s not!
Compare notes with a friend…
Comparing notes with another student is an additional way your child can ensure that his or her notes are accurate and complete. Likewise, when students come together to compare notes, they are also reinforcing information, putting it into their own words, and viewing the material from an alternate perspective—all of which fosters a better understanding of the subject at hand. This also compels students to look at their notes in a structured way.
Quality note-taking can make a world of difference when it’s time to prep for AP exams, or even for a tough test in school. That’s why Biltmore Tutoring offers a variety of skill-building opportunities for students of all learning styles — from small group classes to one-on-one tutoring. No matter what subjects your student is poised to tackle this fall, nudge your child one step closer to success with these crucial note taking tips and tricks.
Need more information, or to sign your student up for our Reading and Study Skills program? Call us at (828) 505-2495.