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How to take great notes

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By GreatSchools Staff

Taking notes from reading

Many experts advise students to pre-read a textbook chapter to get an idea about what it is about, rather than simply wading in. Students can grasp the main themes by first reading the introduction text, subheads, graphics, photo captions, summary paragraphs and study questions at the end.

"Pay attention to anything the textbook publisher has used typographical features to emphasize," says Burke, who has put together an online pre-reading guide. (Downloading this PDF file requires Adobe Acrobat Reader, which you can download for free if you click here.)

Getting an overview will help your child get focused on what's important as she starts to take notes, rather than getting mired in the details.

Accuracy and attribution are essential skills journalists learn in preparing their stories. These skills are equally important to your student when she is preparing to write a research paper or take a test.

Help her learn to summarize information in her own words, rather than copying the textbook. This will ensure that she understands what she has read and help her learn it. Help her get in the habit of putting quotation marks around passages that are direct quotes from an author so she can attribute words that aren't her own.

Finally, if your child is struggling, she may be having trouble reading. Ask her to explain a chapter she's read. If you can see that her comprehension is a problem, make an appointment to talk to the teacher or her counselor so you can get her the help she may need.

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"Thanks for the info. I think taking notes and pre-reading is very important. However, I have one question. What do I do if the teacher already has pre-made notes on a PowerPoint out but he talks as everyone writes down notes? Sometimes the notes aren't clear and the teacher tries to explain it, but because I'm trying to copy down notes I do not understand what the teacher really says. Perhaps I should throw away some of the pre-made notes and focus on the explanations of my teacher?"
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