Improving School Skills: Tips for Taking Notes

It might not seem like rocket science to pay attention in class and write things down. But taking thorough and useful notes is not an innate skill. Note-taking requires practice, and it can be especially challenging if you’re not the fastest or neatest writer, if you struggle to keep words and ideas in mind while writing, or if you’re disorganized. For many kids, taking notes is just more trouble than it’s worth.

But note-taking is an essential skill in school and out. No matter the grade or subject, taking detailed, organized notes is a powerful way to process and make connections with new information. Taking good notes may even help students earn a whole grade higher than students who don’t take notes. Taking notes will help kids focus, develop their working memory and self-awareness, strengthen organization skills, and even help them with time management. So how can we help kids take better notes?

With the advances in technology, note-taking has evolved past the traditional pen/pencil to paper combination. And thanks to portable devices like smartphones and tablets, taking notes has become easier, more accessible, and even more fun.

If your child has a smartphone or tablet, they likely already have note-taking apps installed. If these stock note-taking apps are too simplistic, try using an app like Evernote, Notability, Dragon Dictation, or Meernotes. If, for some reason, devices aren’t allowed at your child’s school, or they just prefer to take notes using pen and paper, try using the Cornell note-taking style.

Regardless of the medium your child chooses, here are some tips for taking notes:

  • Spend time familiarizing yourself with the app, device, and style you plan to use to take notes
  • Develop your own system of abbreviations  like “w/” for “with” or “b/w” for between
  • Utilize symbols for common words, as with “&” for “and.” You can even make up your own shorthand; @ can be used for “at,” “and,” “about,” and “around.”
  • Use little sketches to draw your attention to something for example “!” can signal your eyes to an important point, “?” can remind you to ask a question in class or research more later, brackets for vocabulary, boxes for key people, etc.
  • Always date and title your notes with the main theme/point of the lesson
  • Focus on listening while taking notes, you can always organize the ideas later
  • Spend time reviewing your notes hours after class. Even if it’s just for a few minutes, it helps your brain process and save the information. If they need organizing, you’ll thank yourself for doing it while the material is fresh in your mind.


Featured image: Flickr user Chung Ho Leung

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