Notes That Count

Note taking for students with NLD, ADD, handwriting issues or processing issues

Note taking is a challenging skill to learn for every student. Often NLD and ADD students are not sure what information is the main idea or supporting detail. In addition, typical note taking skills require students to write relatively high volumes of information at class room note taking speeds. This is a challenging task for students with organization, planning, attention, process issues or handwriting issues. To mitigate these issues students need to preview text and prepare a note skeleton (template).

Students prepare their note skeleton or template by previewing their text. By using the structure of the text, students identify important terms, main ideas and key concepts for the lecture topic. The students follow the text structure and write the key terms in the left column. Definitions for important terms are put in the right column. Space is left for additional information that comes from the class lecture. Often the text publishers list key concepts at the beginning of the chapter. If there is not a list of key concepts, the student uses headings to identify main ideas or key concepts. Often a diagram is used to illustrate a key concept. If so, students will preview all diagrams to find additional key concepts for their note template. All key concepts and main ideas are placed in the left column. Explanations of key concepts and main ideas are written into the right column. Again, significant open space in the right column is inserted into the note template to provide room for additional information that comes from the teacher during the class lecture. Preparing the two column skeleton notes serves many purposes. First, the note preparation is a valuable preview process that activates the students long term memory. The activated long term memory recalls essential context that the student needs to learn new information. Without adequate context new information will come too fast to be a positive learning experience. Second, the skeleton notes will help students to identify main ideas, key concepts and terms. The text structure that the publishers use offers the code for students to identify main ideas and key concepts. Third, the skeleton notes reduces the amount of writing during lecture to only additional information that the teacher provides on main ideas and key concepts. This additional information will be installed into open spaces left in the two column note template. The handwritten notes from class lectures will stand out as important additions that the student will pay close attention to when studying for a test. Finally, the two column notes are a study guide for tests and quizzes.

When studying students cover one column and recall information from other column. By following this technique they can immediately check their recall and determine what information they do not hold in their memory. If students wait one hour, they can test their long term memories and judge whether they have mastered all the information for a test. Studying for tests is accomplished without the need for a parent or tutor to quiz and guide the test studying process. Using the two column notes enables students to study independently without needing to wait for available time from parents or tutors. Being able to study without the involvement of a parent gives students a sense of independence and confidence. The two column note template is sometimes referred to as the modified Cornell notes. The note template is a valuable previewing tool. It serves as a structured guide to note taking that reduces student writing during lectures. This will reduce lecture anxiety and thus improve retention of lecture information. Most importantly, to the student, the notes created serves as a study guide that includes key information from teachers on what they think is important. When the two column notes are complete, there is no need to prepare a study guide or refer to the textbook. Once prepared and enhanced by key information from class lectures the student has notes that count. Students that master the preparation and study techniques of two column notes have taken another important step to becoming an independent learner.