Notes and Note Taking

Many sites identify the different ways to takes notes. In general, they agree on 5 general ways to take notes.

Type Description
Cornell Easy
divides page into sections
take free form notes in the main and later add reminders of the key points in the left and a summary at the bottom
very flexible and does not require notes to be rewritten later
See Cornell Notes below
Outlining Good, if the instructor doesn't go too fast
create an indented outline
main topics are indented least, shows how points are related
requires some thought during the lecture
Mapping a.k.a. mind maps, creates a graphical representation of the content
shows how points relates to everything else
doesn't work for everyone
Charting or Tables Useful for certain situations
uses columns and tables to record information
great for heavy fact-based classes like certain history classes
Sentence or List Easiest but least useful
write every piece of new info on a separate line and number them
doesn't show any relationship or group information together
may require rewriting later

Cornell Notes

The Cornell note-taking system is a note taking system devised in the 1950s by Walter Pauk, an education professor at Cornell University. Students set up their notes into two columns, the note-taking column (usually on the right) is twice the size of the questions/key word column (on the left). The student should leave five to seven lines, or about two inches, at the bottom of the page for future summarizing.

See for more information.
PDF with overview and ideas for using Cornell Notes: download

Extend this by having students (as closure) complete the summary, compare to each other and teacher's summary. Review and discuss their summary as set for the next lesson.

Combination Notes

Split the page in half making two columns.

On the left side, students take written notes (outlining, sentence, charting/list).

On the right side, students add a sketch to represent or clarify information written.

Useful for students who learn well through visuals as well as promotes understanding and recall.

Extend this by having student draw a horizontal line and inch or two from the bottom and summarize at the end of the note taking session.

Examples and Resources:
Interactive Notebooks (Picture from this site)

Interactive Notebooks

Similar to combination notes, some teachers use a journal and have students (when book is open) take notes on the left page and draw their illustrations on the right page. This method is used to promote student thinking, creativity, analysis and writing. Teachers must plan to use this method as it is done in a spiral notebook, composition book, etc. Interactive Notebooks includes a table of contents and each note page is numbered.

Examples and Resources:

TCI - Teachers' Curriculum Institute PDF with overview of the Interactive Student Notebook download
ISN Notebook
Interactive Student Notebooks
Math ISN (Picture is from this site)


SQ3R is a reading and comprehension strategy named for its five steps: survey, question, read, recite, and review.

S = Survey. Pre-reading scan: look at the titles and subtitles; identify the vocabulary; look at the visuals; identify focus questions.
Q = Question. Also pre-reading: identify questions for reading focus (what is the article about?); provide students with a list of questions or have them devise their own list.
R1 = Read. Read actively, looking for answers to the questions. Re-read passages as needed. No notes taken in this strategy.
R2 = Recall. Try to answer the questions without using the text.
R3 = Revise and review. Check answers with the text and revise as needed; review what you learned.

Other sources and References:

Other Variations

  • SQ4R
  • KWL
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