Notetaking Training

The Intervention

Notetaking training includes teaching, modeling, and providing feedback on notetaking skills to improve students’ academic and behavioral performance. Overtime, teachers instruct the student on notetaking strategies focused on obtaining appropriate content, at the appropriate level of depth, and in an organized format. Teachers give students positive and constructive feedback on their notetaking to guide skill development. As the student builds independent skills, the feedback is faded. This overview will provide the general structure for teaching notetaking at the individual level, although these skills may be useful at the whole class level as well.

Notetaking interventions can be provided by general education or special education teachers, school mental health professionals, classroom aids, or other assistants (e.g., student teachers). In many cases, initial education about notetaking is best handled by the teacher, as they can teach these skills at the group level. At the start of the intervention, the teacher will also need to provide prompts and feedback following class periods that required independent notetaking. School mental health and support staff can provide additional support and support as needed depending on the student’s unique needs.

Learning how to independently take notes effectively and efficiently is an important skill for all students. However, students who have low test, homework, and classwork scores may benefit from this intervention, particularly if they report difficulty organizing the academic content. Notetaking interventions are best suited for middle or high school students and are not typically used at the elementary school level.

  1. Collect baseline data on the student’s note-taking ability. Identify the specific strengths and weaknesses in the organization and content of their notes.
  2. Determine upcoming lecture material that will require in-class note-taking and prepare a set of model or ideal notes for a few lectures. The recommended format would include main ideas with supporting details in an organized outline format.
  3. Meet with the student to discuss the notetaking intervention. During this meeting, a set of teacher-created notes can be reviewed with an emphasis on the structure of the outline. Explain the rationale for the organization and separation of main concepts and supporting details. Describe how the intervention will be used in the upcoming weeks and inform the student of when the intervention will begin. If you are teaching a younger grade level or notice that multiple students are demonstrating difficulty with note taking, you may want to provide this initial instruction to the whole class.

  1. As you lecture, pause to present the relevant notes to the class (e.g., the ideal, pre-prepared model on an overhead; written notes on the white board). It is important to provide an explanation for why the notes are organized the way they are. You can ask the student follow-up questions that help them distinguish the main ideas from the supporting details. During the first week, the student should copy the note as they appear in the model or notes presented.
  2. As the student becomes more practiced with the notetaking structure, the model notes can be phased out. For example, fewer supporting details can be included, so that the student gains experience filling in the information in without a perfect model. As you phase the instruction, continue pausing to provide prompts or ask questions (e.g., How could I write that in my notes? I don’t want to include all of the details, how might we shorten this for our notes?)
  3. As the students learn the skill, it is important to provide informal feedback throughout the class lecture and to meet with the student to review their notes and provide more specific feedback. It can also be helpful to ask questions about the process and any confusion they experienced. Encourage the student to correct any issues you find in their notes.

  • Start small. Pick a topic or lecture that is relatively simple and follows a clear structure for the first days of intervention. This will set the students up for success with the new technique.
  • Remember to continue providing praise for effort with this strategy, continued practice, and whenever possible success learning a new skills.
  • Notetaking can be very difficult for some children and adolescents, particularly those with ADHD. Further, this skill may be a new expectation for many transition age students. Validate this experience or challenge when appropriate and encourage continued practice.
  • Over time, the student should take on more independence and demonstrate greater skill with their notetaking. Make sure to provide supports that are meeting the student where they are, while also encouraging them to challenge themselves.
  • Once students are able to independently take notes, continue to provide feedback to the student regarding the completion and accuracy of their notes.
  • Notetaking intervention can help students’ organization of their academic content, but it can also be beneficial for engagement and reduction of disruptive behaviors. To successfully use strong notetaking techniques, the student must be in their seat, attending to the material, reducing the likelihood of disruptive behaviors.
  • Students should not be provided with their own copy of the notes as this reduces the likelihood of compliance and may distract them from the information being covered in the moment (e.g., flipping ahead, doodling).
  • If you need help implementing or evaluating this intervention, it may be helpful to seek out consultation from your school mental health professional or intervention team leader.

There are currently no studies evaluating the effectiveness of notetaking interventions for students identified by teachers due to academic or behavioral concerns. However, notetaking training strategies have been shown to improve student notetaking ability and recall of information when used in a whole-class context.

Intervention Scorecard

This intervention is recommended for the following presenting problems.

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Other suitable presenting problems