By David J. Rosen

Why note-taking is important, for you as a teacher and for your students
Note-taking is a way to quickly and concisely record information; if done well, it is also an efficient method to learn and to store what you have learned in your long-term memory. Good note-taking will help learners at almost any level in adult basic skills classes, and will help them prepare for post-secondary education where it is often a key to student success. While research suggests that taking notes may help learners “encode” information, organizing and reviewing the notes — especially a review that emphasizes critical thinking — has been shown to produce “superior recall.” [i]

Teacher Learning Objectives
Here’s an opportunity for you as a teacher to learn how to:

  • Take and review notes on a short video of an adult educator teaching this kind of writing to her students
  • Teach your students that through writing they can learn about themselves, for example, discover their thoughts, feelings, and priorities
  • Use a free app,, that automatically saves notes to your (free) Google Drive, where you can then share them with others if you wish
  • Review the video by reading and clicking on the notes; each note takes you to the specific section of the video to which it refers.

Note-taking in the Flipped Classroom 

If you are using, or plan to use a Flipped Classroom approach, here are some ways you could apply what you have learned in preparing your students to take video notes.

  1. First, teach your students some basic note-taking strategies. Here are some examples:
    – Lesson Plan for Note Taking [PDF] from the Academic Skills Center at Dartmouth College
    ​- Teaching Students to Take Class Notes by Emily Levy on LD Online
    – Note-Taking from iStudy for Success
  2. Then, demonstrate in class, or on a video that you have made, how to watch videos and take notes using
  3. Check that each student is able to use correctly.
  4. Assign a short video for students to watch at home, in the computer lab, or elsewhere before the class — on their own, in pairs, or in a small group. Ask students to use, and to load the assigned (e.g. YouTube) video into This is easy to do!
  5. Ask them to share with you the they took on the assigned video.
  6. Select two or three sets of student video notes to show in class using a computer and multimedia projector; ask students to discuss their strategies for note taking. The objective is to help students improve their note-taking skills, in this case by taking notes on a video, but many note-taking skills are the same for a face-to-face presentation. For example, good notes often include:
    • Title or topic
    • Name of presenter
    • Date/time
    • Learning objectives/competencies to learn, if known
    • Main ideas, key points or concepts
      • Supporting arguments, or substantiating details, evidence or examples
      • Critiques of a main idea, and possible responses to the critiques
    • Important terms (and definitions), people, or dates
    • Important questions raised by the presenter, you or others
    • Connections to other topics or competencies that have already been introduced in class or mastered, or that will be introduced
    • Instructions or directions
    • A summary of the key points or concepts

Video Note-Taking Tips

  1. Ask yourself why you are watching the particular video, what you are trying to learn from watching it.
  2. Watch the video once just looking for and noting on paper what categories of notes seem relevant to include. For example, are there directionsmain ideas or key concepts or key points, or examples? Does the presenter ask or imply certain questions? Is there a surprising piece of information?  Are there tips? Are steps presented?
  3. Watch the video a second time, trying to summarize or encapsulate the most important parts. Begin each note with a label that describes it, e.g. Objective, Main Idea, Supporting idea, Example, Evidence, Presenter question, My question, Instruction, Step, etc.
  4. If you think you missed something, in the note indicate that, for example. with four dots  “….”.
  5. If you are confused about something, in the note indicate that, for example with an “*” or a “”.
  6. Abbreviate words to write more in less time, e.g. wrtg for “writing”, w/ for “with”, org for “organization”, etc.
  7. Don’t worry about spelling.
  8. Note-taking improves with practice.

Preparing to use
You will need a free Google email (gmail) account and Google Drive tied to that account. To get these go to

Go to

  1. Sign in with your Google email account. You should see this: Screenshot

2. Enter this Media Library of Teaching Skills web address in the window on the left that says “Enter the video URL” The web address is for an edited six-minute video on teaching writing.

3. While waiting for the video to load in that window, add a title to the notes window on the right, for example “Writing to Learn”.

4. First watch the video without taking full notes.  (You should hear sound beginning at 10 seconds into the video.  Think about, and jot down on paper, some possible one- or two-word categories for your notes.

5. Watch the video again, this time taking notes in the right window. Near the top of the notes windows, below your title for your notes, is a thin grey window. Begin typing your notes there. At the end of each note hit return.

6. When you finish taking notes on the video, re-read and add to or edit them, and then write a short summary of the video’s key points or what you learned from watching it, for example how you would summarize it in 30 seconds to someone who had not watched the video.

7. If you like, compare your notes with those that I took on the same video (below).


Looking for more information on note-taking?
If this process has engaged you in thinking about note-taking, and you are looking for more, this article, provides a good introduction for teachers to note-taking strategies. If you wonder if taking notes by hand, on paper, is more effective than using an app, there is some evidence that it is, but it is likely that the underlying reasons are that writing by hand eliminates computer distractions and slows down the note-taking process, enabling students to process more deeply what they are writing, which leads to better retention and understanding.

[i] retrieved 7.7.2016.

David J. Rosen is the President of Newsome Associates in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. He is the editor of the COABE journal Web Scan column, a long-time active contributor to the LINCS Technology and Learning community of practice, and the author of the Adult Literacy Education blog He can be reached at  

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