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Make the Best of Class Time with Cornell Notes

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 2/3/2014

It's happened to all of us before. You're up in front of a classroom of drooling high school students when you realize not a single one of them is taking notes (or paying attention). Boost your students grades and attention span by having them use Cornell Notes.

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    What are Cornell Notes?

    • Introduction Cornell Notes for High School Students A simple way to get students to take notes interactively.
    • A simple way to get students to review notes systematically.
    • A simple way for students to practice higher level thinking skills.
    • A simple way for students to think actively as they learn.

    How are Cornell Notes organized?

    • A slice of paper divided into three sections. The three sections can be drawn or you can give students a Cornell Notes Template.

    How to make your own Cornell Notes page:

    • Two inches from the left edge of your paper, draw a vertical line from the top of the page to about three inches from the bottom of the page.
    • Draw a horizontal line about three inches from the bottom of the page.
    • Congratulations, you just made your own Cornell Notes page.

    When can I use them?

    • Anytime you would normally have students take notes is a good time for Cornell Notes.
    • Use them for traditional lectures.
    • Use them for Powerpoint presentations.
    • Use them with written materials.

    What are the drawbacks?

    • Students might actually learn something from your lectures, so you better make sure your information is accurate.

    Anything else I should know?

    • They are not the panacea for all that's wrong with the educational system. If a student doesn't know how to take notes then it doesn't matter what system you use.
    • They are not traditional write this down, throw it in my backpack or the garbage can or the backseat of my car notes.

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    Cornell Notes Sections

    Notes

    The largest of the three sections for Cornell Notes is the "notes" section. In this section students write the notes. A good review of note taking strategies as you explain Cornell Notes is beneficial.

    Questions

    The "questions" section is the area on the left. I recommend taking the notes first and then using the notes to create questions. The answers to the questions can either be found directly in the notes or they can require information in the notes combined with higher level thinking. In some cases, students may write subheadings instead of questions in the left column.

    Summary

    This is a two to three sentence summary of what the students learned. It is the most important and the most difficult section for students. It should encapsulate the central issue of the notes. It should not begin with phrases such as "these notes are about...," "today, I learned....," etc.

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    Evaluation

    All notes should have a title and a date. How you evaluate the notes depends on your class. You can include the grade as part of an overall notebook grade. You can assign a completion grade. You can collect the notes and assign a grade depending on how well they are completed. Using a rubric for checking notes makes grading easier and the notes better.

References

  • Teaching experience.

Teaching Students How to Take Notes

It's an important skill that teachers falsely assume students can do, but there's more to taking notes than rattling off a few facts and hoping students learn it. Note-taking is a process that requires outside preparation, in class listening skills, and systematic review for teachers and students.
  1. Lesson Ideas: Teach Students How to Take Notes
  2. Helping Your Students Take Great Notes: Teaching Techniques
  3. Teach Your Students to Take Great Notes
  4. Teaching Students How to Review Notes
  5. Make the Best of Class Time with Cornell Notes
  6. Cornell Notes Rubric