Note Taking and Outlining

One of my goals for this upcoming school year is to teach Curly some study skills.  A huge part of study skills are note taking and learning how to create an outline.  I plan to have her work on note taking during our history and science times together. 

Here are my tips for note taking:

Write in fragments or short sentences
We’ll practice finding the main theme, word, or idea in a sentence or a paragraph and then write only the most important parts, leaving out descriptive words.  I’ll help Curly learn to shorten her ideas into short phrases and we’ll learn some additional abbreviations to make note taking easier and faster for her.

Write ideas in your own words
Note taking is not simply writing every word a teacher says or copying sentences word for word.  Note taking means hearing or reading something and writing down what you understand and what that idea means to you.  As we read or hear important facts, I’ll have Curly orally narrate the ideas to me.  Then we’ll take that oral narration and pull out the most important elements to create a summary.  The summary, in her own words, is what she’ll be writing down.

Have an organized system for note taking
I’ll teach Curly how to use symbols in the margin to denote different ideas.  She’ll use a question mark for any idea that she wants to explore further or an idea that she has a question about.  She’ll use a hyphen or dash to denote vocabulary words and their definitions.  She’ll use a star for important facts that are new to her and ones that she wants to be sure to remember.  She will also denote each new point or idea with a number so that her facts are listed in order and are separated by numbers.

Use the margins
Curly will be leaving her margins mostly clear (except for her symbols) in case she needs to add extra ideas or additional info in the margins to accompany any of her notes.  After she takes her notes for the day we’ll go back over them and add any clarifying notes in the margins.

Write a summary
Curly will leave the bottom few lines of each page blank to use as an area to write a summary.  After her note taking for the day, we’ll read her notes together and find the most important words and information and write it in a shortened form at the bottom.  This will give her an at-a-glance overview of the main themes of each page of notes.

Use color
I love to take notes in different colors or use various colored highlighters for different pieces of information.  If Curly finds she enjoys colorful notes we’ll start using colored pens or highlighters to show different sections or vocabulary words in her notes.  We might highlight important vocabulary words from the notes in yellow.  Circle main points in pink and underline important dates in blue.  We’ll come up with a system that works for her and make a key of what our colors mean.  Then she can use this system to mark her notes once she’s done taking them.  This will help her quickly scan her note pages and be able to find important info.

Learn to use an outline system
Once Curly is used to taking free form notes with her own symbols, we’ll talk about using an outline system.  I have a template that I’ll print and let her practice on for an outline.  Section or chapter titles will be the main points with all other ideas under the other subheadings.

I made a few simple templates to help us get started.  You can view those here: 


Here are a few details about my templates:
Page 1
This page was designed based on the Cornell note-taking strategy.  There is a space for the title at the top with a lined space to take notes below.  The left margin is left blank for extra notes.  The bottom section is for a short summary of the important points from that page to act as a quick reference when reviewing notes.

Page 2
This page is similar to the first page with the exception that it does not have a space for a summary at the bottom.

Page 3
Here is a simple outline template page.  I hope to teach Curly to use outlining when she takes notes.  This will be a page to help her get started until she is comfortable creating her own outline pages.

Page 4
This page has a section for notes at the top with a blank space left at the bottom for drawing a picture or adding a diagram.

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