Introduction to Cornell Notetaking System

5 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT find relevant information using multi-media sources.

Big Idea

How do students effectively take notes during research? Students gather information using text features to locate key ideas during shared research. Information is graphically organized using the Cornell Note Taking System.

How to Video

20 minutes

I start this lesson like I do with almost all my lessons, with an introductory video.  This video explains the Cornell Notetaking Process.  I ask students to pay close attention to the procedures, because they are expected to reproduce the task following the specified steps.  Common Core expects students to make connections between a series of steps in a technical procedure.  This note taking process is a step by step technical procedure that requires students to pay close attention to details.

We view the Cornell Notes video (see next section for a quick summary of the process).  I stop it along the way to discuss each step.  I look for "talking points" that usually fall between each step.  Then students get to discuss their interpretation of this process.  I like to assess student understanding along the way and not wait until the very end.  This way, whatever misconceptions they have, we are able to "nip it in the bud" before moving forward.

Steps to Cornell Notes

20 minutes

I like teaching the Cornell Notetaking System because it explicitly guides students each step of the way.  The acronym SQR3:  S-Survey, Q-Question, R-Read, Recite, Review is in itself a sequential 5 step process for reviewing sources for the purposes of note taking:

  1. The first step of surveying the page for essential text features is meaningful for my students because of earlier lessons I taught on text features. Students now can apply their knowledge of text features for the purpose of note taking. 
  2. The second step of backwards planning by using guided questions and skimming for answers as students take notes is also very effective.  This step gives a purpose for reading.  Students are looking for specific details while they read. 
  3. Reciting means saying in their own words.  When students learn to paraphrase or say in their own words, they are internalizing the information and avoiding plagiarism.  (We have a discussion about plagiarizing and citing/ documenting sources as well.)  
  4. Last, students review their notes for understanding.  The last step is also helpful for students who are going to orally present their findings to the class.  I use my SQR3 Flip Chart to teach students these points as I project the interactive chart onto my Promethean board.

To learn the process, we go through all of these steps as I model it using an article I select online.  In this case, we are using a Time for Kids article of the Everglades.  I model on the Promethean board as students suggest the facts I need to write on a sample template.  We complete one together and I teach students to cite sources as we go along using a Cornell Notes Template  It is important that students know how to document sources using a bibliography for both text and digital sources.  Students are learning that they should document their sources as they research to avoid forgetting where they got the information if they waited until the end of the research project.

Shared Research

20 minutes

For this part of the lesson, I ask students to work in their cooperative groups to practice the Cornell Note taking (SQR3) system using both the Notetaking and Reference Templates (see previous sections).  Using the Cooperative Group Norms flip chart, I review the group norms, rules, and roles that guide each cooperative team.  These procedures have been implemented and reinforced in my class since the first weeks of school.  So, students are well aware of the expectations at this point. 

Staying on the topic of Florida facts, I give each team 3 resources to study: short articles, excerpts from a book, and online websites to review via laptops. When planning this lesson, I search online for relevant topics and print articles or download videos and save them on jump drives.  I supply each team with a jump drive full of articles and videos that they use as sources for their shared research.  I take a trip to the school or local library to check out books relevant to the topic as well. I check out multiple copies or enough books so that each team can have access to two or three books during their shared research. Each team of students read and work together to complete one note taking and reference template per source.  My favorite articles to use are from Time for Kids (both online and text versions).  I monitor closely as I circulate around the classroom.

Sharing Notes

20 minutes

I ask students to share either as a team or individually the portions of Cornell Notes they created.  Students take turns reading the knowledge they gained from text.  I rely heavily on text or digital sources to help students gather relevant information and engage with the informational text standards of the Common Core.  Students learn to summarize portions of text to deepen understanding.

They are also presenting orally and listening to others as they share their new knowledge.  I also like to emphasize speaking and listening skills to communicate knowledge effectively to others. 

I can also informally assess student knowledge when they present. For example, in this lesson, as I listened to students, I realized that at this point in time, they need more guidance.  I will continue this activity using guided questions to supplement the note taking so that students will search for answers instead of randomly taking notes of every page.