Assessing note taking

Several students have asked me about how I will assess note taking next week. I hope this post helps to explain that.

Photo of notes

When thinking about how effective your notes are, we’ll look at several things.  Are your notes stored in a way that makes them easy to find later? Do your notes include the most important information? Is the informations in them organized in some way or another, like a mind map, bullet points, or an outline? Students who do these kind of things tend to be more effective note takers

I’ve put together a scoring guide which spells this out more specifically, and I’m posting it below. When we sit down to score your notes, we’ll take two examples of notes you’ve taken in other classes this quarter and we’ll use the scoring guide to think about these questions.

Our scoring guide will look something like this:

NOTE  Taking Scoring Guide


  • Information in the notes is organized clearly and legibly using a systematic method such as a mind map/web, bullet points, or outline.

  • Most or all important information is recorded; minimal distracting information clutters up the notes.

  • Notes are easy to find because they are organized systematically by subject or other ‘filing system’.

  • Photographs or other artifacts (if used) are meaningful and are annotated in ways that deepen understanding or clarifies ideas in important ways.


  • Information in the notes is organized systematically in some places but may be unorganized in others; or organization was provided by teacher (i.e., structured notes).

  • Some important information is recorded; some distracting information may be present; or notes are simply a transcript of the ideas presented.

  • Notes can be found by student, but overall organization in ‘filing system’ may be lacking in places.

  • Photographs or other artifacts (if used) are meaningful but annotation may be absent or limited.


  • Information in the notes is not organized in any systematic way (e.g., mind map or bullet points) and/or notes are not legible.

  • Little important information is recorded; and/or a great deal of distracting/irrelevant information is recorded.

  • Notes can be found but only with extensive searching.

  • Photographs or other artifacts (if used) are not meaningful and annotation is absent or limited.


  • There is too little information in notes to warrant organization. (e.g., mind map or bullet points) and/or notes are not legible.

  • Notes are skeletal: very little information is recorded.

  • Notes cannot be found by student.

  • Photographs or other artifacts (if used) are not present.

Looking Back Closely

During March and April, we focused on  practicing close reading. Some people would say that close reading is just a new way of saying ‘careful reading.’ We use close reading when text is difficult, confusing, or when it is important that we don’t miss any details. We might use close reading when we come to a chapter in a novel that is confusing. We might use it on a test, or on a tough math problem.

Of course, we don’t have to use close reading every time we read. We usually don’t need it when reading Facebook status updates or a book that is easy, fast and fun to read. But when we do use close reading, it can sure make a difference.

Here is the close reading routine we used. It only has three steps:

close reading


…for the flow and the big idea.


….What do you need to know?

….What is your purpose for reading?


…. and think again!

 Think about a time or two during the past few weeks when you decided to use close reading and a time when you didn’t. What was the difference? Post your thinking in the comments below.

(Here’s my example: I definitely used close reading when I was buying a ticket home for the summer break. It was very important I didn’t get the dates or cities wrong, or I would miss seeing my family! I also used close reading on a long magazine article about the Indian elections. I was interested, but a little confused, because I don’t know about all the smaller political parties here. I had to read several parts twice to find the answer to questions I had. However, most of the time, I don’t use close reading when I read my daily paper. I can understand most of the stories the first time I read them.)