#sol15 Note-taking


I love when the twitterverse provides me with answers to a question, and when I can reciprocate.

Here’s a question:

What are some paper/pencil ways to take notes?

Jim Burke, The English Companion, is one of the best resources for English teachers. One of his favorites is Cornell Notes — narrow left column for questions or main ideas and wider right column for notes.  At the bottom is a space for a gist statement or summary. One of my favorite books is his Tools for Thought  He has shared a ton of note-taking and other strategies/tools her: Tools for Teachers.

One thing I noticed of my students is that they were not able to build the main idea of the whole article, so I adapted one of Jim Burke’s tools to help with that. The 50_Main_Idea note organizer works well. As students read sections of their articles, they take notes in the detail column — one column for each section. Below the section, they create a possible title / subheading that indicates the main idea of that section. When all the sections are completed, students analyze the information and develop the main idea statement above that. For longer articles, students use more than one organizer. The purpose is to get the details and build the main idea. When students write about their learning, the main idea statement becomes their thesis/topic statement, and the subheadings help them build the body.  Students even include their title and subheadings before each topic in their explanation or analysis.

Another thing I noticed my students weren’t doing was using vocabulary relevant to the topic. So I created this form [ mainideawordbank ]. As students read the first time, they list in a Word Bank the specific vocabulary needed to retell the information. While re-reading, students list the 5W-H [who what when where why how] of the topic.  Last, using all that information they write a gist statement(s) that summaries the 5WH with specific vocabulary.

Hope that helps with note-taking ideas!  What other ideas do you have?


Photo by Sheri Edwards

For more slices, visit the gracious hosts at Two Writing Teachers to read other “slices.”


  1. Great note taking ideas here! I will be passing this information on to teachers I work with.
    Side note: I was looking through information I like to share with teachers on close reading and discovered that I had an article by you for Scholastic on close reading with second graders. What a small world!

  2. […] As educators consider, communicate, and reciprocate their ideas, they create strategies and lessons which others can adapt. The act of writing is an act of creating: it sets in words for others to consider the possibilities and opportunities for everyone’s growth. When I read someone else’s idea, I consider my own place and adapt and remix the ideas to fit my world. I reflect and credit others who then may try my idea or the original, and remix to fit their world. It’s a reciprocal, creative remixing to improve the experience of learners. Example: Create and Remix: Notetaking […]

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