Take Note! {Note Taking in the Primary Classroom}

Note taking.  It's a skill we've all used in our lifetime.  I probably didn't start taking notes until junior high, but it was definitely a skill that I developed and used up until the day I graduated from college.  In fact, I still take notes.

This past year, I introduced note taking to my second graders.  Say what?  Don't worry, I didn't lecture my second graders and expect them to sit intently at their desks as they took copious notes on the subject matter at hand.  Promise. 

Last year, everyone on staff was asked to come up with a few teaching goals.  One of my goals was to foster student stamina within a whole group setting and one of the identified ways in which to do this was to incorporate note taking into my repertoire.

At first, I was like, "Uh, how am I supposed to teach these kids how to take notes?  I'm still hounding them to write a complete sentence!"  But, then it dawned on me, I could do both!  Plus, the more I thought about it, note taking is an awesome learning strategy!  It fosters concentration and understanding.  When we write things out by hand, our brains store the information more easily, so note taking leads to remembering.

What does note taking in second grade look like?
Here's a sampling of one second grader's notes.  She did a pretty good job of writing complete sentences, most of the time.  I told you, I'm always hounding my students to write complete sentences (insert winky smiley face).  This was from one of our very fist note taking sessions dating back to November.

When do your students take notes?
I typically use note taking during a nonfiction read aloud pertaining to a unit of study and/or during a content related video.  Note taking usually makes an appearance during my social studies and science time since most of my units are language arts based.

What does the process look like?
It goes a bit like this:
  • The students gather on the carpet with their materials (the carpet area is my favorite teaching space).
  • I read several pages in a nonfiction book.
  • I pause and tell the students to write down one important thing they learned from the reading up to that point in time (in the form of a complete sentence); they use bullets to separate their ideas.
  • I let a few students share their notes with the whole group. 
  • I read a few more pages and repeat.  
  • If we are watching a video, I do the same thing.  I pause the video every so often and give the students time to write down something they learned, and then let a few students share their notes before resuming play.
What do you do with the notes?
Typically, I compile the students' notes onto a class anchor chart (or two).
Note: I don't always write their notes as complete sentences on my charts.  This is usually due to time constraints, paper size, and/or it may not be conducive to the assignment I give them once the chart is completed.

Then, I have the students use the shared notes to write an informative paragraph (one reason I don't always write complete sentences on the anchor chart) or complete a graphic organizer (can/have/are, fact/opinion, and so on).  While I mainly used this skill during Social Studies time, it can be used whenever and however you like, that's the beauty of note taking!

What materials do my students need to take notes?
Last year, the students did most of their note taking on mini whiteboards (as shown at beginning of this post), but that was not the greatest tool to use.  The ink smears and many of the students write way too big most of the time. 

This year, note taking will make a return visit to my classroom, but instead of using those messy, super small boards we will use one of these generic note taking forms that I created. There are two different versions so I can start with the one that I think will best meet the needs of next year's kiddos.  I may even copy the form double sided, just in case!

You can grab a copy of these forms by clicking {here}.  I hope you can use them.

So, the burning question is, do your primary students take notes?
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  1. This is a great idea! The kids will be engaged! Thanks for sharing!!!

    1. Thank you so much! I'm so glad you found the idea useful. It has really helped keep my students on task and engaged during our whole group learning. Have a great weekend!


  2. Wonderful post, Aimee! Our new reading series suggests having students take notes and I have been wondering the best way to do that with my 2nd graders. Thanks for sharing the process and the great freebie!

    EduKate and Inspire

    1. Hi Kate!

      I'm so glad you found the post helpful! I hope you are able to put the freebie to good use as you venture into the world of primary note taking next year!

      Have a great day,


  3. Thanks for the post. I started using notes at the end of last year with my first graders and they seemed to enjoy it. This year I plan to incorporate it a little more and start earlier. I like your idea of combining their notes into an anchor chart. I'm definitely going to try that!

    1. You're so welcome! I'm glad you were able to take away an idea or two! Have a good one1


  4. This is great! I teach English to second graders in Mexico. I picked up the second semester where another teacher left off. They have pretty much have had books read to them and have answered the questions in the book, word for word. This is a great way to change things up and keep them "on their toes"! Thank you! :)

  5. Thank you very much, we are just embarking on taking notes - wish us luck!

    1. Good luck to you! I hope this approach provides your students with the scaffolding needed as they learn to become note takers. Thanks for stopping by! :)


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