Teacher Tap

Summarizing and Note-taking

How do I decide what to include and exclude?

What's the best way to paraphrase so I'm not copying?

Why is note taking important?

Summarizing involves analyzing information, identifying the essential elements, and communicating these elements in a personal and meaningful way. Note-taking is the process of organizing and writing pieces of information that can be used later. Summarizing and taking notes are important activities throughout the inquiry process. Students modify, substitute, delete, and select pieces of information. Involve students in categorizing and prioritizing information. In their book What Works in Classroom Instruction, Robert Marzano (et. al.) identified summarizing and note-taking as one of nine key instructional strategies.

Transform Ideas

Rather than simply taking verbatim notes, ask students to transform the essential ideas into a form that makes sense to them. Consider using PowerPoint as a notetaking tool. Although you can create templates for students, think about ways to get students involved with developing a personalized notetaking system. Students can print out the screens and the speakernotes. They can also print the slides 4-6 to a page and create flipbooks for review. I've developed the following examples to get you starting thinking about this approach.

Online Resources

There are many online resources to help young people take and organize their notes.

Note-taking Tools

Note-taking Techniques

Student Resources

Visual Notetaking


Explore Notetaking Issues
Examine the suggested website resources. Then, design an assignment that focuses on good notetaking practices. Create a starter resource to provide scaffolding for students notes using PowerPoint. For example, adapt ideas from the Cornell Notes (PDF) approach to create your own PowerPoint starter.

Try It
Compare the notetaking tools. How are they alike and different? How would they help your students organize information?

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