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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.


Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

04/23/2012:
"Thank! This article and its links are just what I needed. "
11/3/2011:
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11/1/2011:
"gave me a few tips. don't really have the best study skills. i recommend this to lots of middle schoolers, especially people in my class "
09/20/2011:
"my younger sisters are in 6th and 7th and once i showed them this,WOW their grades automatically went up!!!! im only in high school and now that i saw this i am amazed at how my sisters just... WOW t thank you "
06/29/2011:
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05/27/2011:
"excellent tips"
02/14/2011:
"Thank you :)"
09/16/2010:
"Great references and article."
04/30/2010:
"i am currently failing ALL my classes..plus its almost the end of they year..can u give me some input and some great studying techniques and maybe some motivational hints or somethinng like that??? thanks"
03/11/2010:
"I have a daughter in 8th grade. She is on an IEP and in the inclusion classroom. She has support classes and this helps her a lot. Her reading level is way down. She reads at a 3rd grade level over her learning disability, but she is a trooper and works so very hard. She is very enthusiastic and wants to succeed in school. Is there anyone who would know if a child at this reading level will ever catch up? Thank you for your input."
10/19/2009:
"I am a high school student and i am failing my history calss I do need to get my grade up and I will do amything to get it up I need some pointers on how to study good for a test."
08/24/2009:
"i didn't really help me, but it gave me a few tips. Thanks!!"
06/1/2009:
"Thank you very much for this helpful information! :-)"
05/28/2009:
"Thanks a lot for this article. I have a daughter who will be entering high school this fall, and this information may be very helpful. I definitely think it will help me to help her. She has difficulties keeping organized. "
04/27/2009:
"Thanks for the information! I am starting High School soon, and I think this will definitely come in handy! "
02/5/2009:
"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?"
01/2/2009:
"I home school a 9th grader and I am looking for info that will assist me in preparing him for college. After reading this article it occured to me that he has not had much note taking skills. I don't want this to be a hinder to him in college. Thank you for this valuable information, I will start incorporating note-making skills into his lessons. He is looking forward to attending college and I don't want him to be discouraged because he doesn't have note taking skills that will help him be successful in college."
01/2/2009:
"This informationis HUGE. I have tried to give our son note-taking tips, but he hears so much of my voice in so many different areas. Thank you so much for concise, informative and helpful information that will definitely help him succeed in note-taking. And...most importantly....Mom wasn't instructing him on how to do it!"
12/3/2008:
"I am starting a new school in Jefferson Parish, because I just move from Mississippi, and test taking and teaching skills are much more different than at my old school. So i guessed by helping me out I went to this website to kind of get a heads up on the whole thing, because I am not a straight A student im mostly some a's,b's, and c student. So I will take these examples and use them! thanks!"
07/11/2008:
"I am very disappointed that I read this article so late in the summer. I wished that I had read the article midway through her fifth grade year. However, I am greatful that I was able to obtain a good resource for the upcoming school year. My daughter, Alexius. is entering middle school. She blossomed towards the end of the year and received the BUTTERFLY AWARD. Hoping the trend continues I anticipate that making friends is fist on her agenda. I look forward to receiving additional materials that will assist me in preparing her for the school year."
02/21/2008:
"Your information looks helpful. Our school is on a break right now and I have one more week when we go back to pull my grades up. I feel that this will help me. This isn't really feedback but heyyy just letting you know. Lol. Okay well I will right back accordingly when I prove your information helpful to me at school."
11/12/2007:
"This article is great! It's helping me a lot, I often have trouble following what my teachers say when they're lecturing because I can't write fast enough to get the information I need and still hear what else they have to say so the abbreviations are really making it easier. Thanks a lot for the great tips! Note making just got a whole lot easier."
10/25/2007:
"this article helped me do better i school. And i am getting better grades now!!"
09/4/2007:
"This website is great fror school studies!!!"
09/4/2007:
"I have my own tutoring business, The Tutoring Patch in Joplin, Missouri. I have acquired several new students who are taking high school English and it has boggles their mind. Having taught only up to grade 8, your guides are excellent and will be a great help to me and my students. Thank you so much."
08/21/2007:
"This article is very helpful for me since I never felt I was a very good note taker. My oldest is starting 5th grade and I want to be able to help her so she doesnt get discouraged by the increased work load."
08/20/2007:
"I've just rread this artical and it's awesome as a middle school student it's very helpful and useful at all times!!! Thanx Lodsa Loves"
06/18/2007:
"I am definitely going to use these tips on note-taking. I love this website!! i go on it everyday!!!"
10/2/2006:
"This web site is GREAT!!!!!!!!!!"
10/2/2006:
"I am a parent of four kids in school and I am happy to see this web cite. It is very helpful.I would like to get involved in any programs that will help me help my kids. Thanks"
09/6/2006:
"Not only has my lack of proper note taking skills been a hardship both on and off the job, but I haven't been able to assist my child in this area. Both of us have relied on memory to get us through. This is a source of extreme frustration. I am looking forward to learning some new tools from this. "
08/31/2006:
"My child has just entered 6th grade and her school environment is changing. Expectations of her output are evolving and expanding. I value any input in helping her become a successful student. Note taking or 'making' is a vital skill, necessary to achieve that success. This is an excellent article!"
08/30/2006:
"My 11 y.o. has been having problems with standardized and entrance exams. She's otherwise a pretty good student (in the public school gifted program K-5.) Now that she's going into 6th grade, thankfully to a public charter school, I am concerned with how well she'll do overall in the coming years, especially at the middle school level."
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