Cornell Notes are an integral part of the AVID program, and it is the preferred method of note-taking for AVID students. Research shows that Cornell Notes are a more effective method of note-taking because the process requires students to revisit the notes multiple times which in turn assists in keeping the information in long-term, rather than short-term, memory.
Students can take Cornell Notes on the downloadable note paper or they can use their own loose leaf paper. Here are the steps to set up and take Cornell Notes:
STEP 1 - Create Format
If using loose-leaf paper:
Ø Write your heading in the upper right-hand corner of the page (your name, class with period, date)
Ø Write the topic/objective at the top of the page
Ø Create an essential question based on the topic/objective and write that under your topic heading
Ø Create a T-chart by making a horizontal line underneath the essential question and a vertical line with about 1/3 of the paper on the left of the line for questions/headings and about 2/3 of the paper on the right for notes
Ø Leave approximately 2 inches on the bottom of the second page (back side of the paper) for a summary
If Cornell note paper is provided:
Ø Just fill in the required information at the top (heading, topic, and essential question) and prepare to actively listen to take notes
STEP 2 - Organize Notes
Organize notes on the right side of the T-chart by:
Ø Taking notes while
o Listening to a lecture
o Reading a textbook, novel, article, etc.
o Watching a video
o Participating in an activity
o Engaging in Socratic Seminar or class/group discussion
o Participating in tutorials
Ø Paraphrasing into your own words
Ø Leaving spaces for revisions/additions by skipping lines between ideas
Ø Abbreviating words and use symbols when appropriate
Ø Writing in phrases (not complete sentences)
Ø Using bullets or lists, when possible/appropriate
Ø Changing pen colors to indicate changes in concepts
Ø Recording important information rather than trivial/unimportant information
Ø Recognizing cues, especially from the teacher, like “This is important…,” “This might/will be on the next test…,” and repeated information
Ø Incorporating teacher’s note-taking style/requirements (outline, diagrams, graphs, illustrations, etc.)
STEP 3 - Review and Revise
Revise and review notes by:
Ø Using the “Cornell Note Revision Checklist” to revise notes
Ø Separating main ideas from details by underlining main ideas
Ø Highlighting/color coding important information
Ø Deleting unimportant information by drawing a line through it
Ø Annotating to clarify, complete, create deeper meaning, etc.
Ø Identifying information that is confusing or needs clarification using a question mark to indicate the need to check with a peer, the teacher, or another resource
Ø Adding references from/to other materials
Ø Making connections to other concepts/content
Ø Using symbols (star, checkmark, etc.) to indicate what is significant
Ø Using * symbol for information that may be used on a test, essay, tutorial, etc.
Ø Creating visuals/symbols to represent ideas/concepts to help recall information
STEP 4 - Note Key Ideas
Note key ideas to create questions by:
Ø Using inquiry on the left that connects to the key ideas
Ø Reviewing the main ideas highlighted on the right side
Ø Determining the purpose of the lecture, reading, activity, etc.
Ø Developing questions on the left that identify the main ideas on the right
o Lower Level Questions: Related to recall of information only
o Higher Level Questions: Related to connecting ideas and seeing the deeper meaning
STEP 5 - Exchange Ideas
Exchange ideas by collaborating; here is how…
Ø Collaborate with peers as a small group, a tutorial group, or as a whole class, in class or outside of class to compare, exchange, revise notes
Ø Using a different color pen, fill in any gaps and clarify any points of confusion in writing to complete your notes
Ø Brainstorm a list of key vocabulary from the lesson to be included in the summary
STEP 6 - Link Learning
Link learning to create a synthesized summary by:
Ø Reviewing notes taken, questions developed, and prior knowledge to identify the main ideas to be used in the summary
Ø Addressing the essential question of the lesson in the summary
Ø Using the notes as support to write the summary
Ø Synthesizing, combining main ideas together, to internalize learning from the questions/notes
Ø Answering the higher-level questions from the left side in the summary to tie together main ideas
*Note: As the summary is written, there may be a need to address remaining points of confusion with new questions to the left side to ask the teacher, a tutor, or a classmate. After the discussion to clarify the point of confusion, document the clarification in the blank space on the right side.
STEP 7 - Learning Tool
Use completed Cornell notes as a learning tool by:
Ø Reviewing notes taken, questions developed, and summary – this may be done individually or in study groups
Ø Applying new learning to increase performance in content classes by using notes to study for a test, write an essay, reference during tutorial, prepare for a presentation or discussion, etc.
Ø Interacting with the material by taking notes, writing questions, and summarizing to internalize material to increase new learning
*Note: Using the notes as a learning tool provides the opportunity to transfer knowledge to long-term memory by making meaning of the notes and forming connections.
STEP 8: Written Feedback
Student is provided with written feedback when Cornell notes are checked for quality and quantity. The feedback should be reviewed by the student to revise and improve notes, questions, and/or summary.
STEP 9: Address Feedback
Address written feedback by:
Ø Using the “Cornell Note Focus Goal Activity” to create a goal for improvement on future note-taking
Ø Identifying an area of challenge
Ø Writing a focus goal to improve
Ø Identifying specific actions to address challenges
STEP 10: Note-Reflecting
Reflect on your learning by:
Ø Gathering all Cornell notes on the topic, concept, standard, objective, essay, etc.
Ø Review notes, questions, and summaries
Ø Completing a “Cornell Note Reflective Log” to show how you mastered and/or applied your new knowledge.
Example of Completed Cornell Notes (Front)
Example of Complete Cornell Notes (Back)
*Adapted from Collier County Public Schools "E5 - Cornell NoteTaking Guide w/ Lesson Plans"