Developing Students’ Note-Taking Skills

by | Aug 31, 2021 | Interactive Notebooks, Teaching Strategies, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Note-taking is a struggle for students, and it seems like it’s even harder to get students to take notes in our digital age.

Even with all of the advances in technology, studies still show taking handwritten notes helps the brain move information into long-term memory. 

So how do we get our students to fully understand the benefits and buy into note-taking? 

Explain To Your Students Why Note-Taking Matters

The first question most of our students asked is “why?”. Why should I bother taking notes? Why should I take the time to handwrite those notes? 

The very first thing you’ll need to do is explain to your students why note-taking is important for their success as students (and adults!). 

As I’ve stated, research has shown that taking handwritten notes helps the brain move information from short-term memory to long-term memory. 

Explain to your students that long-term memory is what they’ll need if they plan on remembering the content of the lesson past the week they were taught the content. 

When students take excellent notes, it is much easier to review the content before testing too! 

Give an example of a time you used handwritten notes to increase your long-term memory. 

Personally, I’ve always found handwritten notes increase my memory retention, which is also why I always handwrite my weekly to-do lists.

Model What Note-Taking Looks Like

After you’ve explained to your students why they should take handwritten notes, it’s time to model what note-taking looks like. 

A lot of teachers think that students intrinsically know how to accomplish a goal once the goal has been explained. This is not the case. 

I had this experience as a student. I was in a gifted pullout, and we were expected to do a research project. After checking our topic, the teacher sent us off to do it – yet I had never done an in-depth project like that before. The lack of support left me feeling like a failure, when, in reality, I wasn’t taught how to do it.

Help your students be successful by modeling what is expected of them. Have your students start with a fresh notebook and model what notes would look like for a lesson that you’ve recently done (or a new lesson.) 

As you are modeling, be sure to emphasize what is important for students to write down and what isn’t. Think aloud so students can hear how you decide what to add in your notes.

This modeling will need to be done more than once to ensure that your students have a full understanding of how to take notes.

Assign Students Passages To Take Notes On

Once you feel like your students have a firm understanding of what note-taking is you can have them start practicing. Start with a textbook, a presentation (like these powerpoints – link to powerpoints), or a reading passage (like my American history flipbooks), and use those to demonstrate the thought process. 

Have your students copy the notes you write, then begin to ask students what they think should be written. 

Once you see students getting the hang of it, have your students try to take notes independently. If you notice students continue to struggle, provide support or pull them into a small group.


Interactive Notebooks Help Develop Students’ Note-Taking Skills

I loved using my interactive notebooks as an easy way to foster students’ note-taking skills, because they guide students to the main ideas. 

Each student gets their own notebook that you print out and create together (or you can grab digital copies!). 

My interactive notebooks come in a variety of subjects and grades, making it easy for you to find one to use in your classroom. 


If you are looking for upper elementary interactive notebooks that focus on American history, you can check out my bundle here, which includes 7 separate interactive notebooks to use all throughout the year.

I also have US history notebooks for middle school.


I also have a bundle that is all about ancient and world history! There are 9 separate interactive notebooks in this bundle, which is geared towards 6th – 8th grade students. You can look at this bundle by clicking on the photo.

Another great bundle that I have focuses on Civics, Government, and American history for 6th-10th graders. This four-product bundle contains all of the interactive notebooks you’ll need on this subject for an entire year. 

Click on the photo to learn more!


When your students know how to take effective notes, they have better memory retention, higher confidence levels, and the potential to perform better on exams. 

Teach your students the importance of note-taking, model what it looks like to take effective notes, and help them hone their skills. 

What are your thoughts on note-taking? I’d love to hear! Comment below or email me. 

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Over twenty plus years, my educational career has spanned four continents and two states, as well as eight grade levels!

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