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Improving Your Note Taking

Improving Your Note Taking

The Benefits of Paper Notebooks Note-taking without a screen can help students learn how to organise their thoughts while also making it easier for teachers to measure learning.

Samra Omar contributed to this article.

30th of July, 2021

During the epidemic year, we all witnessed it: kids spent hours attached to iPads and Chromebooks, all day, every day, despite remote and hybrid learning. While such technology enabled online learning that would have been unthinkable just a decade ago, excessive screen time has been linked to a slew of detrimental consequences.

This year, I will require pupils to utilise paper journals in order to recover some balance between digital and analogue learning. Paper notebooks can help divert children’s attention away from devices while also providing educational benefits.


Students who use a notebook are forced to be more deliberate in their note organisation and presentation. Although there are numerous apps that allow students to write and organise notes, I’ve found that using notebooks lays more responsibility on the students to develop, adapt, and keep to a system that works best for them.

Furthermore, when students focus on and practise an orderly note-taking technique, they are developing a lifelong talent that will enable them to rapidly process and transcribe data and facts, which is useful in a range of vocations.

I intend to teach my students how to take effective notes so that they can organise their takeaways from lectures and questions in a consistent manner. I’ll also show them how handwriting, readability, and even aesthetics matter more when writing in a notebook, and urge them to use symbols or shorthand techniques to quickly capture material from fast-paced lectures or slide shows.


Students who use their devices to take notes are frequently assaulted with updates, texts, and notifications, as well as the constant temptation to surf the internet. Authentic learning, on the other hand, necessitates focus and continuous immersion in a subject.

Students may claim that they can juggle a variety of responsibilities with ease. Humans, on the other hand, are not wired to multitask, according to research: Multitasking makes us “less efficient and more prone to errors,” according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Paper notebooks alone will not address the concentration challenge or the multitasking issue. Students will continue to daydream and doodle, but blocking aside a tech-free period to take notes or answer questions on paper gives them a brief break from the digital world.


Taking notes by hand (rather than typing) enhances learning and information retention. “Students who used longhand remembered more and had a deeper knowledge of the material,” says Cindi May, a psychology professor at the College of Charleston.

Taking notes by hand, regardless of method, will provide kids with valuable practise for college, when they may not be permitted to use devices in the classroom.


I can easily determine if my pupils are following directions and keeping up with the content satisfactorily or if they are taking chaotic or incomprehensible notes when I review their notebooks. I can teach them how to take better notes in the latter instance. If the student does not follow an organised system, I may subtract points from the assignment. In one session, I set notebook grades equal to assessment grades, which provided a strong incentive for students to keep their notes structured and of good quality.

I used to gather notebooks every two weeks when I graded them before Covid (usually on test day). I chose at random from a set of homework questions or notes from a lecture I had delivered. I double-checked that each student had the answer or lecture notes in the correct part of their notebook, dated correctly, and written in the form I had advised. For example, I insisted on whole phrases for all responses. In the case of textbook or in-class replies, I usually double-checked for accuracy.

When I demand and grade notebooks, I find that I am able to reduce the amount of grading I have to do, making grading easier overall. I can check one, several, or all of the components of assignments in batches when students turn in their notebooks because they don’t have to turn in every assignment.

Teachers can assess notebooks in a variety of ways, including organisation, completion, legibility, and accurate responses to questions.


A typical notebook may appear to limit the student’s ability to think creatively, however this is not the case. Ask pupils to take a breath, look through their notes, and draw a picture next to important topics. (Drawing aids memory and retention.) Use Doodle Notes or have kids create colourful interactive notebooks out of their paper notebooks.

Students were instructed to draw maps on blank paper or label and colour pre-drawn maps before cutting them out and pasting them into their notebooks. Allowing pupils to use coloured pencils, markers, tape, glue, and scissors in addition to a pen and paper in class might benefit kids by providing a physical layer to note-taking. The Benefits of Paper Notebooks

Note-taking without the use of a screen can help pupils learn how to organise their thoughts and make it easier for teachers to measure their progress.

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