This article is excerpted from 25 Quick Formative Assessments for a Differentiated Classroom by Judith Dodge.

Noting What I've Learned is a simple notetaking strategy that can be used in all grade levels and across the curriculum. Adapted from my favorite new note-taking strategy, Column Note Taking, it utilizes the best element of this note-taking system popularized at Cornell University (Pauk, 2000): two columns, one for main ideas and another for details. Keeping this basic format, I've added boxes so students can provide drawings and other nonlinguistic representations of the information, and I've enumerated the details to make outlining simple and inviting for beginning note takers (Dodge, 1994). This format of note taking with both pictures and words is inviting to learners who are spatial and enjoy illustrating their ideas.

Used with struggling students or students new to note taking, Noting What I've Learned provides an introduction to a critical skill that students must master to be successful in school.

Since students' organizational skills and ability to function independently vary greatly in a mixed readiness classroom, you need to begin note-taking instruction with a very basic note-taking format and then offer alternative strategies and less structured formats when students seem ready (Dodge, 2005).


  1. Provide students with a template of Noting What I've Learned to accompany a reading assignment.
  2. If this is the first time your students are using this outline, provide them the Main Ideas, Questions, or Key Words for each of the boxes. (Each box should reflect one section of the reading.)
  3. Read aloud one section from your textbook or other nonfiction text, and then pause. Give students two to three minutes to list details (facts, data, examples, evidence, and so on) supporting the main idea or to answer the question that is written in the box.
  4. To provide students additional support with this note-taking instruction, you might allow partners first to talk for one minute to gather ideas before writing individually.
  5. Have students share ideas as a whole class, so that all students can learn from one another.
  6. Read the next textbook section aloud. Follow steps 4 and 5. Repeat until section is completed.
  7. Show students how to use Noting What I've Learned as an effective study tool by folding the right side of the page over to meet the right side of the boxes. Students can then study by asking themselves questions and trying to answer them aloud without looking at the details underneath the folded paper. (See the sample below.)
  8. Change to a different activity for the rest of your lesson. You will want to practice this reading and note taking/sharing at least once a week for part of the class period. Over time, students will build their note-taking skills and will be able to read and take notes more independently.


This strategy can be used for listening comprehension, as well. As part of your lesson, you might give a PowerPoint presentation, show a video, or play a podcast (digital media files downloaded off the Internet). Every few minutes, stop for students to record what they have heard on their Noting What I've Learned organizer.

Once students have been given direct and guided instruction, as well as paired practice, they will be ready to use the Noting What I've Learned template on their own for homework. Frequent practice with this strategy will make better note takers of your students.


Students use the Noting What I've Learned outline to organize their notes for Social Studies.


Tech Connect

Have groups of students plan PowerPoint presentations using the Noting What I've Learned graphic organizer as their prewriting/organizational tool. During presentations, have other students listen and record their own notes on a blank Noting What I've Learned outline.

Tips for Tiering

To support struggling learners: Continue to provide the main ideas, questions, or key words for these students as long as needed.
Provide the page number, paragraph, or section where students will find the details they will need.
Highlight sections of the text to help English language learners focus on comprehending a smaller amount of text.
To challenge advanced learners: Encourage advanced note takers to take notes in whatever format works best for them.