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Note-Taking Using Graphic Organizers

By Rhonda Stewart on November 22, 2013
  • Grades: 3–5, 6–8

At the start of our new unit, Reading to Learn: Synthesizing Nonfiction, my students were not overly excited. Actually, the unit was met with apprehension. After I explained the work that we would be exploring in this unit, the students began to warm up and grow curious.

I took the approach that they would walk away with strategies that they could utilize in middle school, high school, and even college. I reminded them that they use different muscles to read nonfiction, and in using those muscles, they need to have a method that helps them hold onto the text. I also let them in on a secret — they were already doing some of this work and it would help them in other curriculum areas.

For our class, note-taking is defined as any method used to jot notes in our notebooks to help us understand what we have read. Interestingly enough, the students have noticed that this strategy is not just for nonfiction, but can be applied to fiction reading as well. It is my hope that allowing students to “own” the method that speaks to them, it will cement the learning of the text and offer them success and growth in their reading.

I am including some samples of student work using the techniques and photographs of the anchor chart that is currently posted in my classroom. For the anchor chart, I borrowed the theme of football from a colleague, Ms. Andrews, and I am so glad I did. It really ignited my students' interest — lots of football fans in my class!


Note-Taking Techniques


Boxes and Bullets Identifies the main idea and supporting details



List  Ideas, thoughts, and noticings about the topic      


Frayer Model  Effective for vocabulary and includes definition, synonym, antonym and illustration  


KWHL Formerly KWL chart includes H=How I am learning about the topic  


T- Chart  Use for compare and contrast


Venn Diagram Use for comparing and contrasting ideas/concepts/items



Diagram  — Label illustration with details


Brainstorming Web Identify all things known to the student about the topic


I am a firm believer in not reinventing the wheel. The graphic organizers I use have been around for years. I just remind the students that there are creative ways to take notes. My students are able to reproduce the organizers in their notebooks. Another option that I have used is to download organizers from either Scholastic Printables or Free Printable Graphic Organizers.

Pearls of Wisdom — Create your anchor chart using a fun topic to post in your classroom. This will insure that your students will use the techniques. Any favorite note-taking techniques that work with your students, please share!

Comments (2)

Love it!!

I am going to use this with my READ 180 middle schoolers. Thanks in advance. I will come back and let you know how it went.

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