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Essential Skills


Objective: Much of your learning will occur in the classroom.  Since tests, papers and other assessments occur days, weeks or even months after a specific lesson, students must develop effective notes in order to recreate these lessons.  To accomplish this goal, students must consider the following:

  1. Orient Yourself:  What system works for you?

    1. Familiarize yourself with various note taking styles and methods.                

    2. Choose the method that best fits your individual learning style and the demands of the class.

  2. Think Analytically:  Lectures, discussions or activities are designed to help students understand a broad concept and see how specific facts or examples relate to that idea.  Good class notes must therefore do the following:

    1. Describe the key idea or concept (Thesis, Claim or Hypothesis);

    2. Identify specific facts or examples of this key concept (Facts or Data);

    3. Explain the relevance of these facts or examples (Relevance or Analysis).

Habits for Success:

1. Good students will be actively engaged in class.  Even if the class is centered around a lecture, students must listen for central themes and emphasize these themes in their notes.

                   a.  Pay attention to cues, such as: pauses, repetition, changes in delivery, visuals, etc...

2. Good students will not write down every word.  If you write too much, you will fall behind and not be able to concentrate on the lecture.  If you don’t write enough, however, you will not be able to trigger your memory days or weeks later.   You must therefore find a balance between writing enough to trigger your memory and keeping your mind focused on the next part of the discussion.  By putting ideas in your own words, you are deepening your understanding.  To assist in this, you will want to develop your own shorthand.

                         EX.    H = Hamlet

                                  Ec = economics

3. Good students will review their notes and pull out key words or ideas and highlight things they do not understand.  This can be done during a lull in the lecture or as part of your regular homework routine (i.e. before starting your next assignment, review that day’s notes).  The Cornell Method creates a template to assist in this practice.

4.  Good students will reassess their note taking strategy.  After completing several tests, quizzes, papers or other assessments, determine whether or not your note taking style was effective.  If not, determine how your style could improve.

Top 5 Reasons to Use OneNote

1. OneNote is searchable, including text in images, written text, and typed text.
2. You can tag information and then search for tags.
3. You can add links and files directly to your notebook.
4. You can insert audio and video comments.
5. You can clip content from the web or your screen to your notes and it brings the reference link with it.


1. Divide your notes into 3 sections.

2. Take your general notes in the Note Taking Area.

3. Place key words or concepts and place them in the Cue Column.

4. Review your notes and write a short summary at the end.


The outline is a terrific way of organizing notes under sub-headings. This is an ideal method for taking notes on textbook readings or lectures that follow a pre-determined outline.

When creating an outline for a textbook reading, using section titles and intro sentences to help create the outline.

Organization of Ideas should progress from broad ideas to specific details (Roman Numerals should be the big ideas or themes)

I.  Topic 1 (Main Idea)

  A  Sup-Topic 1(More specific idea)

         1.  Supporting fact 1

         2.  Supporting fact 2

         3.  Supporting fact 3

  B.  Sub-Topic 2

         1.  Supporting fact 1

         2.  Supporting fact 2

II.  Topic 2

Depending on the content or the student’s learning style, graphic organizers can be a fantastic way of thinking about and retaining information.  Graphic organizers can be used as your initial notes or as a means of organizing your notes as you prepare for a test, paper or project.  The two most common forms of graphic organizers are Venn Diagrams and Mind Maps.

Venn Diagrams

Venn diagrams are a great way of comparing and contrasting material. Draw two or more overlapping circles, label each circle for one topic, example, character etc. In the portion of the circle isolated for that topic write in characteristics that relate solely to that example. In the overlapping area write details that relate to both examples.


Pic 1.png

Mind Maps

Mind maps are a good way of showing connections between various ideas.  Mind Maps are more versatile than Venn diagrams.  The essential themes or guiding questions provided at the beginning of a unit are a great way of organizing a mind map. Similar to an outline format the broadest idea should be in the center of your mind map and move outward towards more specific details.