17 Tips for Effective Note-Taking

As a teacher, there’s nothing more gratifying than when your students “get it.” You can sense neurons working and the concepts beginning to click and see the light of recognition in their eyes. You help to pass on information in a way that allows students to absorb and digest it.

But what about when your students don’t get it? When looks of bewilderment cloud their faces, assessment outcomes are low, and despite hours spent trying to explain the same concept, they just don’t seem to understand.

Sometimes, the root of this problem starts with note-taking. Depending on the age level of your students, some are just beginning to learn to take notes, while others in high school and college have already done so in most of their classes. If you teach older students, you may assume that this is a skill your students already possess as so many tools are available for organization of their learning process. However, you’d be surprised by how many of them haven’t a clue how to take good class notes. Spending a lesson on note-taking may boost overall learning, as well as spare you from re-explaining material you already covered.

Here are some tips for effective in-class note-taking that you can share with your students.


  • It’s better to use a three-ring binder than a spiral notebook. That way you can rearrange and organize your notes or insert classroom handouts.
  • Date your notes and number your pages.
  • Use a highlighter to highlight main points.
  • Leave blank spaces between notes in case you missed something and need to add it later.

What to write down

  • Write down vocabulary words you don’t understand and write down the definitions.
  • Don’t try to write down the entire lesson. Many teachers give background information that leads up to the main point.
  • Summarize main points expressed during the lesson.
  • Write short sentences and use abbreviations.
  • Copy down all important content written on the board, including high level ideas and important events and names.

Pay attention to cues

  • Many teachers give cues that will let you know that important information is coming. They may say something like: “This is important…” or “The main idea is…” “In summary…”
  • Pay attention to the tone of voice. If the teacher raises their voice and speaks slowly and with emphasis, or uses gestures to gain your attention, it’s generally because they’re stating an important point.
  • Many teachers also repeat important points in case students missed it the first time. If you catch a repeated phrase or concept, you can be sure it’s important and should be recorded.

Increase retention

  • Retention of information decreases exponentially as time passes. In order to prevent yourself from forgetting the information in the notes you’ve taken, it’s best to review your notes within an hour after class is over.
  • Read your notes after class and write down any questions you have in order to ask the teacher later.
  • Without looking at the notes, read the questions and formulate answers to them.
  • Briefly review notes from previous classes to refresh the knowledge and increase retention.

Mobile review

To be sure that your students use these tips properly and become better at note-taking, do a short follow-up. You can send them review questions via Remind and have them use Stamps for quick, formative assessment. Send your feedback to students as well—for example, you can attach a Voice Clip or a photo of great notes, or checklist of what good notes should include.

Also, if you want students to use your tips properly and be in the know of the “lifehacks” that could make their learning process easier, start a blog like EssayUniverse and share your advice there. This will help students to keep track of best hints for effective note-taking and more.

Sharing these tips with your students will help you to cover more material, as well as increase overall learning and retention. A lesson in note-taking is time well spent.

Related articles

  1. 3 Things to Do to Set Up Your Classes For the Year

  2. How Roni Habib Uses Remind To Get Things Done and Build Rapport

  3. What We Learned From the LAUSD Shutdown