Teach Notetaking for Students with Special Needs: Tips for Teachers

If You Say It, They Can Write It: A Study Guide for Notetaking

If you say it, then students should be able to write it in the form of notetaking. However, for students with disabilities, hearing what is said in class doesn’t necessarily equate to an innate ability to transpose the listening into active writing. Teaching students how to write what you say is the beginning to new learning skills that can last a lifetime.

Starting the conversation can begin with simple steps outlined below and end with a study guide that students can use for any lesson:

  • Begin a lesson with stating the main topic of interest and writing it on the board. For example, if you are teaching students how to write an essay, you could start with a main topic "Writing an Essay," and have students write that in their notebooks labelled main topic.
  • Next show students how to outline each step of the process of writing an outline. Put the template on the board for them to copy in a notebook and tell them to leave spaces between each section of the outline for further notetaking.
  • Keep the first lesson on notetaking doable, so that students with special needs have time to write it down and ask clarifying questions. If students need assistive technology in the form of computer software and specialized writing tools per an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), teachers should make sure students with physical disabilities in writing have the tools and technology needed to capture the written context of the lesson.
  • Teach students how to listen and write what they hear. For example if the topic is listening to directions, then students can put as a topic sentence "Listening-directions." Read a section from a textbook and have students write down what they’ve heard in an outline format starting with main topics and sub-topics and supporting information. Make sure to check their work and make corrections if needed.
  • Provide guided practice in notetaking by giving students different mediums to listen to and take notes from: examples can include the teacher reading an introduction in a book, students reading a section of an article and students listening to recordings and writing what they hear.
  • Provide feedback on the student’s notetaking and model corrections by having students practice different ways of listening in class. Students can write down what they hear in their own words; indicate direct quotes by writing a phrase using quotation marks or take general notes and use graphic organizers or index cards to organize their notes into meaningful chunks of information.

Notetaking isn’t easy, but creating a simple step-by-step approach to taking notes in a study guide can be a bridge of academic opportunity for students with special needs who will appreciate being a part of the learning process from the first note to the last in your classroom.