How Can I Help My Child Succeed? Note-taking.

Despite what you might have heard, taking notes is still in fashion!

Help your children take notes from the beginning, and they will benefit throughout their academic career.

Even with today’s technology, note-taking continues to be one of the best methods for learning and retaining information.

There are several reasons for this.


Taking notes keeps you engaged with the material longer.  If you really want to learn something and really want to remember something – what do you do?  You rehearse it.  clockYou say that phone number over and over to yourself until you’ve got it; or you connect the numbers to some image to help you recall.  In any case, you spend more time with the information.  Note-taking does the same.


Taking notes requires you to abbreviate the information and, if done correctly, consolidate the ideas in your own words.  This gives you practice answering potential questions before they are even asked.  If you have only read the material and done nothing with it, you will likely have a more difficult time writing a paragraph answer or essay answer to a major question.  Even short answer questions might pose a problem.  Many times students have told me something along this line, “I know the answer, but I just don’t know how to say it.”  (Or write it)  Note-taking eliminates this problem!  You will know how to say it or write it because you have already taken the time to practise this. (Bye the way, if you don’t know how to say it or write it – then you don’t know it.  Sorry.)


There seems to be fairly clear evidence that the kinesthetic action of writing or printing notes on a piece of paper wires the brain differently.  It helps you remember!  Taking a writingpen or pencil and writing notes forces you to slow down, think about what you are writing, and network your knowledge as you try to be concise.  If you look at this carefully, you will recognize something amazing – these points are exactly the same points called learning – taking a broad view, gathering lots of information, looking for connections within and between bits of information, summarizing the findings and drawing conclusions, and writing them down for future reference.

It is the writing that most students don’t like.  It seems like so much work.   Remember what I mentioned in the last blog. (The Agenda)  Doing the “leg-work” really helps in the long run.  You will end up saving time; but, more importantly, you will have gained much more from the learning experience.  Oh, and raise your grades if that seems important.  (Hint – it is, although not the most important in my opinion.  Focus on the leg-work and your grades will rise anyway.  However, the most important factor is that you will learn more!)

Taking notes the old-fashioned way with a pen or pencil and a notebook or binder full of paper is the best method in my opinion.  Ask your child to give it a try.  Help him or her see that it really isn’t all that difficult.   Using a good reading system helps.  Have a look here:  Reading for Speed & Comprehension.

Having said this, there are lots of programs for taking notes, and they can be useful particularly for some students who have very weak printing / writing skills.  (I would encourage you to help your child develop those skills separately, however.  Don’t give up – especially if they are under 12 years old! Even old dogs can learn new tricks.  New brain research has proven this.)evernote

OneNote and Evernote come to mind.

If you use one of these programs, you still need to “do something” with your notes.  At the very least, type them out yourself.  I would still recommend handwriting / printing some answers during your self-testing sessions to help you prepare for quizzes, tests, and exams.  You can wholesale copy and paste information into these programs, but did you learn anything from that?  Be brutal with yourself and make sure that you read the material, rehearse the material in some way, and that you are able to manipulate the information to answer questions in your own words.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  I have seen students who spend a lot of time gathering information for an assignment, storing all these amazing documents on their Google Drive, but they have no idea what is actually there.  They have only read the titles or seen the pictures – copy/paste; copy/paste; copy/paste!  Fun – maybe, but a waste of precious time.  Read the material, make executive decisions, and then choose only the most relevant for your assignment or unit.  Once pasted, you will still need to work with the material.  That is the goal.  So my point is that technology can be a very helpful tool, but it does not replace your brain or the necessity to play around with the mad scientistinformation and familiarize yourself with it inside and out.  If it helps, think of yourself as the mad scientist who is manipulating things to make new discoveries.

Take notes in class from teacher lectures.

Take notes from your textbook. (Yes, this includes math.)

Take notes from blogs.

Take notes from videos, podcasts, and movies.

Take notes from short stories, novels, and plays.

Don’t worry.  You will get better with practice.  Find techniques that work for you.  There are many methods for taking notes.  I used some of the recommended styles but adjusted them considerably for my own purposes.  My notes might not make any sense to anyone else – but they don’t need to.  They made perfect sense to me, and I can look back to notes I took thirty years ago, and they still make sense.   That point is important.  If you choose to use abbreviations or symbols, make sure you will remember them!  If you can’t read your notes in a couple of months before the exam, that’s a problem.   Once you learn a few symbols, you can write more quickly in a kind of shorthand and get all the relevant information you need.  But remember, you don’t want to note everything anyway.  You want to synthesize the information.

Learn to have fun taking notes.  Remember it is YOUR education.  Wow – what a gift it will be.

For more tips or personalized programs, check out the website. 

Better yet, get in touch.


Website:      Free Student Survival Guide.

Video:  How Can I Help My Child Succeed? Note-taking.

2 thoughts on “How Can I Help My Child Succeed? Note-taking.

  1. Very well written with useful advice! There’s something I want to work on, teaching students HOW to take notes, and find what works for them. What a valuable skill!

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