Reconceptualizing Notetaking

Notetaking may be one of the most challenging skills to teach students of just about all ages. Teachers face this daunting task, often with their own limited experiences with notetaking. When my son was in middle school, one of his teachers spent the class time writing his outline for the chapter on the board for the students to copy into their notebooks. While this teacher was definitely knowledgeable about his content area, his students would have made more progress towards becoming independent learners if he had modeled and thought aloud about the processes he used when creating his outlines.

Kathleen Guinee and Maya Eagleton (2006) developed an original strategy for notemaking, especially during the inquiry process, as students must identify key ideas in written text. The term notemaking is used, rather than notetaking, to convey the active process that must occur to synthsize information that we read, hear, and view. CHoMP is a notemaking strategy in which students take a piece of written text and do the following:

  • Cross out small words.
  • Highlight important information in remaining text.
  • o– a place holder.
  • Make notes based on the highlighted information.
  • Put the notes in their own words.

Eagleton and Guinee recommend a teacher first model this strategy several times, thinking aloud about the ways he or she makes decisions about how to summarize the information. Then students should work with a partner and chomp a few passages together to practice, before turning students loose to work independently.

Middle school social studies teacher Mark Engstrom has taken notetaking to a new level in his 8th grade geography class. In his video “Redefining Note Taking: Collection and Curation” https://vimeo.com/94183735 , he and his students create a classroom scene where students take on various tasks as a part of the inquiry project. Each task culls information to be shared with everyone. At the point where it’s time for students to make notes, all have access to a wealth of information collected and organized by classmates. The fascination view of his instructional activity definitely helped me to rethink my own college class and to discover ways I can get my students to be more engaged with notemaking during our class time.

Guinee, K. & Eagleton, M. (2006). Spinning straw into gold: Transforming information into knowledge during Web-based research. English Journal, 95(4), 46-52.

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