Note-taking: Paraphrase, Summary, and Direct Quotes

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SWBAT demonstrate applied comprehension of note-taking through discussion and hands-on activities for paraphrasing, summarizing, and selecting direct quotes.

Big Idea

Note-taking is a vital learning strategy for college and career readiness.

Lesson Overview and Note to Teachers

My classes are held in 100-minute block sessions every other day.  The lesson below outlines activities on three main types of note-taking for college and career readiness. Please view the video in this section for more information.

Directed Freewriting

15 minutes

Today I explore note-taking with my students through individual work, small-group collaboration, and class discussion.

To draw on student experiences and background knowledge, I ask students to do directed freewriting on a series of questions (Assignment: Directed Freewriting on Notetaking).  I use a picture of a baby bobcat (Bobcat is our mascot) when displaying the assignment on my projector since a study by Nittono, Fukushima, Yano, and Moriya (2012) found that students are more productive after focusing on pictures of baby animals.

I circulate as students are writing and read their writing clandestinely.  After 10 minutes, I begin circulating again and reading student writing (Student Work: Directed Freewriting) with their knowledge, stopping to talk to students about their note-taking strategies while sharing my own (summarizing, paraphrasing, selecting direct quotes when appropriate). 

Collaboration and Debriefing

31 minutes

I tell students that today we will be exploring note-taking since it is a skill they need not only for high school, but for college and career readiness. This year writing across the curriculum is a major focus, and as part of this initiative, I delivered professional development to the entire faculty on note-taking a few weeks ago.

I have adapted the presentation for students, focusing on how they use note-taking in the small-group activity. To begin (PDF: Keynote Presentation on Notetaking), I ask students to get into groups of 3-5 (they know each other fairly well and stay focused in groups) and choose a recorder to write their answers to the following discussion questions on Slide Two: 

  • What is your definition of note-taking?
  • How do you use note-taking? 
  • What are your strengths in note-taking? Weaknesses?


I tell students to use their directed freewriting as a springboard for discussion and remind them that we will debrief as a class with each group sharing answers in the all-class setting.  This discussion engages students; I find them involved in fruitful discussion, talking about specific ways they use notes in content area classes.  

Using notes taken during the discussion, each group shares its answers (Student Work: Small-Group Collaboration). All group responses are below in italics.

  • What is your definition of note-taking? Writing the main idea and important facts of a lesson to be reassessed later. Writing down key information. Summarizing information to be able to study or understand. Gathering important details from the information that is given. Writing down key points in a section.
  • How do you use note-taking? We use notes as we're writing them to help process the information, but we don't really use them to study. Use it to remind me what I learned and it helps us study.  Used to summarize given information to be able to review before a test. By jotting down important details and use it to study for tests and quizzes. To study for test and be able to understand the lesson.
  • What are your strengths in note-taking? We are organized and write neatly. Looking back on the notes and highlighting key terms. Being able to condense the information said. Organized set up and writing. Organization and the ability to have the notes neat.
  • Weaknesses?  One group member says he writes very slowly. Writing too much, at first writing detailed notes then getting lazy and stop taking good notes. Tend to fall behind, not catching all information. We write everything down and sometimes don't even know what we're writing because we're writing so fast and not understanding it. Not concentrating during lecture and also not being able to paraphrase.

When I ask students to identify one similarity among answers, they come to consensus: When taking notes, most students write too much or cannot follow what they are writing. I tell them that today we will explore three types of note-taking to help them improve their skills:

  • Paraphrasing: writing the text (spoken or written) in your own words
  • Summarizing: writing a synopsis of the text, including main points
  • Selecting Direct Quotes: writing exact wording from the text when no rewording will do the original text justice.


Before moving on, I give students a comical brain break by sharing and explaining Slide Three, which shows a funny graphic about six different types of note-taking (the boring, the sharpie, the graphical, the nerd, the lazy, the genius).


Paraphrasing, Summarizing, Selecting Direct Quotes

40 minutes

I review the three types of note-taking on Slide Five of the presentation (PDF: Keynote Presentation on Notetaking):

  • Paraphrasing: writing the text in your own words (nearly identical in meaning, about the same length as the original)
  • Summarizing: writing the text in a shortened form (presents only the most important ideas of the passage)
  • Selecting Direct Quotes: writing exact wording from the text when no rewording will do the original text justice.


I explain that we are going to engage in hands-on activities to review and/or provide students with additional practice on three commonly used types of note-taking. I let them know that even though they are seated in groups, these are individual activities. However, time may permit sharing work in their small groups.  I use the short passage entitled, "The Heart" (Handout: The Heart) from Great Source Education Services (1999) because short, informational pieces are good for guided practice activities. Please refer to the Procedures Handout for additional information (Procedures: Paraphrasing, Summarizing, Direct Quotes Activities)(Procedures: Paraphrasing, Summarizing, Direct Quotes Activities - Word).

Due to time constraints, I stop for a lesson check point and ask students to consider the work we did today and the work completed in the hands-on activities (Student Work: Note-taking Activities) if they have questions on the three types of note-taking.  Students have no questions, but I ask them to address any in their ticket out. 



Ticket Out

14 minutes

I go to Slide Ten, the last slide in the presentation (PDF: Keynote Presentation on Note-taking), and ask students to consider what we have done today and what they have learned.  I explain that as a group they are to complete one ticket out (Student Work: Ticket Out on Note-taking):

  • As a group, write a summary of what you learned today.
  • List any questions you have about note-taking.  


Suprisingly enough, no students have questions on note-taking in their tickets out. I will be able to further assess their knowledge as we move forward with our literary study and begin to use paraphrasing, summarizing, and selecting direct quotes more often as we encounter increasingly complex texts.