AVID Weekly

The 5 Phases of Focused Note Taking

Phase 1: Choose the style and why

Create the notes: Select a note-taking format, set up the notes, and take notes based on an information source (lecture, book, website, article, video, etc.), selecting, paraphrasing, and arranging the information in a manner that meets your note-taking objective. While students are learning how to take notes, educators can provide scaffolding to make the process accessible to all students. It is crucial for educators to model and invite students to engage in this thought process so that note-taking becomes a powerful and portable learning tool students can carry with them throughout their educational experiences.

3 ways to start focused note-taking process

10-2-2: Break up the information students are taking notes on into chunks to allow students processing time; this could include information from working collaboratively in groups, watching a video, listening to a lecture, reading, etc. Stop every 10 minutes to allow students time to process their notes. Provide 2 minutes for students to confer with a partner about the notes they have taken, revising, adding to, deleting, questioning, and clarifying what they have written. Then provide 2 minutes for individual reflection and revision of the notes before moving on.

Modeling Note-Taking: Ask students to take notes about a portion of a lecture, a video, or a reading passage, such as an informational article or textbook excerpt. After students have completed their notes, allow students to view instructor-taken notes on the same content. Talk through the noes with the students pointing out the note-taking techniques used and discussing the decisions about what was included, what was left out and how the material was organized.

Word Banks: Before lecturing, provide students with a visible word bank of key terms, names, and concepts they will want to include in their notes. Word banks help students focus on essential ideas and assist with fluency of not-taking for students struggling with getting the ideas on the page.

Phase 2: Take Notes

Guiding Principles

  • The focused note-taking process must be explicitly taught, and educators should allow time in class for the phases to occur.
  • For learning to occur most effectively, learners must revisit their notes multiple times in a variety of ways.
  • Every phrase of focused note-taking involves inquiry. Learners must constantly ask questions of themselves, their notes, and the content.

3 Main Methods

  • Think about the Notes
  • Revise the Notes
  • Identify main idea and supporting details.

Things to Remember

  • Processing notes involves thinking about the notes.
  • Processing notes provides opportunities for collaboration.
  • Processing notes will get messy as note-takers revise.
  • Processing notes focuses on clarifying content and organization.
  • Processing notes should be done within 24 hours of taking the notes.

Phase Three: Connect Thinking

Why is the process of Connecting Thinking important?

Thinking beyond the notes. Students need to analyze the notes using inquiry to make connections and deepen content knowledge by asking questions and adding your own thinking to create a greater understanding, identify gapes or points of confusion, and connect their new learning to what you already know.

Instructor provided opportunities (time) for students to use their notes to:

1. Exchange ideas.

2. Discuss student-generated questions.

3. Link learning beyond the notes themselves.

Costa's Level's of Questioning

Level 3 - Doodle – The doodle level question requires you to create or come up with your own idea. The answer is in your head and you will use connections or opinions to show it. apply a… generalize forecast imagine hypothesize if…then… predict idealize judge evaluate principle speculate

Level 2 - Noodle – The answer can be found by using your noodle (brain). The answer will be “between the lines”, so it will be inferred or implied, requiring some use of your noodle to answer it. analyze compare distinguish classify contrast make analogies infer explain why synthesize sort sequence reason

Level 1 – Google – The answers can be found on the page. A simple search will be enough to answer the entire question. describe count identify complete select name match recite list scan define observe Level 2: Noodle Level 1: Google Level 3: Doodle Costa’s Levels of Questioning

Phase Four: Summarizing and Reflecting on Learning

Think about the notes as a whole.

Pull together the most important aspects of your notes and your thinking about them to craft a summary that captures the meaning and importance of the content and reflects on how the learning helps you meet the note-taking objective.


After Day 1, review the information for at least 10 minutes. Use this time to interact with the notes by chunking sections, writing questions, and/or highlighting important information. This will help to retain approximately 100% of the information. Skim through notes for at least 3-5 minutes everyday for the next 7 days. Paraphrase sections on a post-it, draw visual representations, and/or discuss the notes with a friend. This will assist in the continuation of knowledge retention. If students maintain a consistency of reviewing notes for 3-5 minutes per day, by Day 30, the brain will only a few minutes to kick into high gear and officially commit the information to memory. So, it’s not the note-taking, it’s the note-making that counts. Make the notes work for you!

Instructional Strategies:

Instructor provides opportunities for students to summarize and reflect on their new learning.
Most students independently write summaries:

  1. including key concepts and terms
  2. reflecting on their new learning

Students will view the notes as a whole and think about the big picture: What have I learned and how will this be useful?

Students Can:

  1. chunk their notes by topic.
  2. go through and highlight important information, check off things they already know, and put question marks by information they still need help with
  3. read their notes to a friend and discuss similarities and differences in their notes
  4. put questions in the margin that can be answered by that section of notes
  5. use their questions as a class quiz
  6. paraphrase sections on write on a post it note
  7. make connections to other readings or lectures
  8. create visual representations of main concepts
  9. separate main ideas from details by adding color (underlining, boxes, circles)
  10. brainstorm a list of pertinent vocabulary
  11. create an overarching question that addresses the notes (this is considered the Essential Question in AVID strategies)
  12. answer the overarching question at the culmination of the notes

Phase Five: Apply Learning

Use the Notes

Save and revisit your notes as a resource or learning tool to help you apply or demonstrate what you have learned. The focused note-taking process is not meaningful unless the notes serve a purpose and help the note-taker achieve that purpose. Otherwise, there was no need to take the notes in the first place.

Throughout the note-taking process, we have asked students to consider the note-taking objective or purpose as they create and interact with their notes. Ideally, students have been preparing for the use of their notes from the outset, as their efforts have been focused with the end goal in mind. At this point, students are ready to use their notes to show what they have learned and make all this effort worthwhile.

Students can use their notes for many purposes, including the following:

  • Socratic Seminars
  • Philosophical Chairs
  • Debates
  • Problem Solving
  • Researching a topic
  • Writing (narrative, argumentative, or expository)
  • Speeches
  • Authentic projects

Lewis University

Thank you Chief Kelly and Cpl. Harshman of the Apache Junction Police Department for your assistance with our college tour video! We hope you enjoy our tour of Lewis University!

AVID Elective Class - Seats are filling quickly!

The AVID Elective class is completely a voluntary class offered to students who are interested in preparing themselves for life beyond high school at a university. This class is designed to help students achieve admission and success at the university level. We work on study skills, organization, writing, reading, note-taking, and planning. We research universities and scholarships. This class has a limited number of seats available and entrance into it is based on an application and interview process.

The first step is to apply. If you have a 6th student who would be interested in being part of the AVID 7 elective class, or any questions, please contact Regan Roach at rroach@goaj.org for the online application.