Students have different responses to the idea of taking notes. Some see notetaking as act of drudgery. Others are convinced that they can retain important information without doing it at all. And some students just get stressed out by the entire process: they worry that they won't remember enough information from one page to the next, then they get overzealous with the highlighter and come out of it with pages and pages saturated in bright yellow ink.
Taking notes is personal: when we take notes on a reading, we're mapping our thoughts and responses, making complicated ideas clearer, and even acknowledging ideas in a text that we simply don't get. Most students understand that they should do something with the material they read if they want to understand and retain it, but it can be challenging for educators to move those students from knowing the abstract value of notetaking to taking a practical, methodical approach to the process.
Good notetaking is a crucial step towards actively engaging with a text. The great thing about teaching students effective notetaking techniques is that, when they start to experiment with it and figure out what methods work best for them, they become more empowered learners and get more excited about the act of scholarship itself.
To help students fine-tune and personalize their own notetaking process, classroom teachers and librarians can give them the opportunity to view the act in separate stages—from the initial highlighting, to deeper annotating, to creating thorough outlines and articulating well-thought-out responses to a reading.
Start with this short video tutorial, which talks about the value of notetaking (Better retention! Saving time! More confidence!) and discusses the benefits that come from highlighting, annotating, and taking full "outline" notes of a text (also available for students on all ABC-CLIO databases). After devoting a few days to helping students experiment with notetaking, watch as they start engaging more actively with reading material, both in class discussion and in their own writing.
Get more ideas for teaching this topic and a ready-to-use handout in the lesson plan, "Highlighting, Annotating and Notetaking: Guided Practice."