Does your child blindly jot down notes from a lesson? How many of them never refer back to those notes until revision time, only to discover they don’t make sense? We have all done it.

The problem is that when we actually need the information, when we need to try to move that information to our long term memory, this approach simply does not work. Making notes is not just about making notes. But, it can make a real difference and pupils need to understand how to do it effectively. So, how can we make a massive difference with a small amount of effort?

Dr Susie Nyman has spent 25 years training her pupils to change their way of working to increase their grades.  Her notes taking lessons are legendary among her pupils.

  1. Make sure that notes include ‘trigger’ words and highlight these key words.
  2. Add references to any other resources in the margin next to your text.
  3. Use the ‘traffic light system’ to help pupils identify what they do and don’t understand. Put a red dot next to sections they don’t get, an orange mark for sections they understand but need to work on and a green mark next to sections they are really happy with. This is incredibly useful as human nature makes us gravitate towards information we know, but there is little point in pupils spending time on their green sections. Orange and red should be their targets.
  4. Add images to make notes more memorable. Even better, use resources that incorporate images to provide important visualisation triggers.
  5. Create Q&A cards at the end of each topic. Get pupils to use a homework session for this if you don’t have time in lessons. For those who might struggle to create their own cards, use resources that provide these ready made so they have them ready for revision.

A key part of becoming a grade riser is having organised notes. Dr Susie Nyman, in her book ‘How to Become a Grade Riser’ outlines her top tip for organisation:

  • Identify the main heading using a bold colour and an image.
  • Add subheading using another bold colour for each new topic.
  • Create notes as bullet points using a few words and an image for each point.

Cross checking information against the specification is vital. Ensuring pupils are using the relevant command words on a day to day basis within their notes will make them confident when they see these words in an exam setting.

Making notes effectively saves a huge amount of time and stress as well as being a key factor in helping your child become a grade riser.

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