Archive for October, 2009

Notetaking Strategies (Part 4) Mind-mapping

Mind mapping

This type of notetaking has been expanded to mean many things.  In this case we are focusing on using it for notes. It is strong and memorable strategy but takes time to become good at it.  Tony Buzan developed mind maps and you can go to this link to check him out.  There are resources and samples to see.  Here are my thoughts on it and my way of teaching it. The main point is to use pictures and key words for helping you remember concepts.  A mind map is made for each concept a student is learning or exploring but that concept can have subtopics within it.  If the concept changes completely, this is a new mind map. 

Here are the steps:

1. Gather a variety of colors of markers, crayons or colored pens or pencils.

2. Start in the center of a blank sheet of paper, preferably one without lines. Provide the main idea in the middle.  This can be a word or picture or a combination of a picture with a word.

2. Work outward from the main topic.  You would draw a line to a new subtopic out from the main idea.  . Continue that line with divisions or splits in the same color as long as the topic remains under that same subtopic.  Keep to images or key words only.  

3. Each time there is a new subtopic, it begins a new line from the main topic and you follow the same instructions as for step 2.  The lines for each subtopic should be color coded to make them easy to follow.

Some important things to keep in mind are that mind maps are meant to be quick reference and visual.  A mind map will stick to this list of ideas:


Key Words



Visual Memory-key words, use color, symbols, icons, arrows and grouping of words.

Note:  This strategy needs a great deal of modeling and working with the student to improve their mind mapping abilities along the way. 

There are many computerized programs out there to assist in creating mind maps.  Personally I am a bit old fashioned when it comes to note-taking mind maps because finding the computer picture to fit the note sometimes just takes too much time.

Notetaking Strategies (Part 3) T-Notes

T- Notes

Please remember to read Part 1 on teaching someone how to take notes.  If you have not read those, please do not use any of the following information without reading it.

This strategies requires just a sheet of notebook paper. 

1. Prepare the sheet of paper. Fold the sheet of paper in half hot dog style, meaning vertically. Then draw a line where that fold was.

2. Find the main topic, a title for the notes. Write this at the top of the page on the title line if lined notebook paper.

3. Begin reading sections, when a new subtopic is introduced, you write on the left side of the line that subtopic.  Then on the right side of the line, right next to that subtopic, anything that comes across as important about that subtopic should be placed there in the student’s own words. 

4. Draw a line when a new subtopic is introduced and repeat the step above. 

*Note:  Sometimes it helps to use different colors for new sub-topics.  Making an entire topic one color until you move to the next sub-topic.  Also, you may always use pictures here in the place of words.

Notetaking Strategies (Part 2)-Sticky Notes

  Sticky Note Notes

This strategy entails having the student have lots of sticky notes.  Whatever size works for them and if they want lines or no lines, up to them.  The stared steps are not neccessary when reading a novel or story, only for content material like science, history, etc.

*Step 1:  Student glances though  and find subtitles and writes on individual sticky notes a phrase, one word or entire subtitle.

Step 2:  Begin reading, after reading a paragraph, page or section (depending on their level of reading comprehension and what can be retained) After each section, page or paragraph she is to write on the sticky note in own words main concept from that section or what happened in that section. 

Step 3:  Read next section, paragraph or page and repeat Step 2. 

The sticky notes above are actually stuck inside the book, preferably hanging off the edge and sticking out of the book.  These may remain in the book for a period of time or removed and placed inside a spiral notebook in order. Keeping them in the book, makes it easy to glance through sticky notes for a refresher on what was read yesterday and finding answers to comprehension questions.

Step 4: After the chapter, unit, section is read and complete, the student will want to remove the stickynotes and place them into a notebook in order.  This provides a quick summary of the entire material read in the student’s own words.   The student now has it all on a few pages.  It’s a beautiful thing.  A study guide is now ready for preparing for a test.

 *Please note that the notes written down can be done visually as pictures.  No one says the sticky notes have to have words on them.


Notetaking strategies (Part 1)

Recently, I have been working with some of my middle school/high school students on note taking strategies. It is sad really that when you walk into classrooms and ask teachers if they have taught their students how to take notes in their classroom about 9 out of every 10 I ask say, “No”.  The interesting part is that many of them require the students to take notes or they strongly encourage it and say, “You can use your notes for the test.” 

If a student does not know HOW to take the notes in a way that works for them, then the notetaking is useless.

We can not possibly expect students to be successful with taking notes without teaching it. It is important to remember that students need to take notes in a style that works for them.  They need to try a few different styles to find the right one for them. 

  It is essential that you teach them the strategy and not just give it to them and say, “Now do it.”

When using these you must practice this with them.

1. Model the strategy for them: This means read a section with them and you do it for them.  Before writing on each stickynote, say outloud what you are thinking.  This might be something like, “I think it was really important to know…”  You may also while reading, realize that you are already thinking about what needs to go on your notes. You read a sentence and say, wow! That’s important.  So say that out loud for them.  This is important.  Then go ahead if you feel the need and write that down on a note right then and then keep reading.  You can always add more paper or stickynotes.  You don’t have to fit it all on one. Include in your “thinking aloud” why you are choosing what you are choosing to write down.

2. Have them read the next section and discuss what they are choosing to write down.  Make sure they can say why they chose what they chose.

3.  If they really attached to the method and really get it, let them do several sections and then show it to you.  After a while, they are good to go, you don’t need to keep watching over how they are doing their notes.

4. If the strategy doesn’t stick and seem to be one they attach to Try Another One. 

I felt I should break the different strategies into different posts so please take the ideas here and apply them to the next few notetaking posts. I am only sharing a few strategies, there are many so don’t limit yourself to these. These posts include

Sticky Note Notes

T- Notes

Mind Mapping

Lynnette Crawley M.S. Ed

As an educational consultant, I work with families, students, adults, parents, teachers, schools and corporations in relationship to the many disabilities affecting their lives. Many times all anyone needs is a little coaching, direction or tools to close the gap between where they are and where they should be. Making progress is not good enough. We must be closing the gap. Email:

Donate to American Heart Association

My son is raising money for the American Heart Association. Show your support by giving to the link above!