Cornell Notes for revision

11Feb10

I like the Cornell note-taking system (at Wikipedia and at Lifehacker) but I have to admit that I’ve not found it very useful for most of my students. I’d love to believe that the average fourteen year old could make and organise notes, but the evidence so far is against it. I’m planning to try it when I next have my classes watch a video, but for most lessons I need to know that they’re going to leave with a set of useful notes. Instead, I’m using it to help students focus their revision.

I explain the concept in a lesson after students have had the chance to choose their priorities, using an audit. (described in the previous post) I then ask them to write three or four questions they need to answer, or areas they need to focus on. Their homework is then to produce revision notes, summarised from memory, folders, textbooks or the internet, on those areas. Alternatively, students can produce their plans and then use the lesson and available resources (textbooks, folders, educational software, internet, me) to fill the gaps. A blank pdf and a word version which is probably best suited as an electronic blank are below.

Printables: cornell revision as docx : cornell revision as pdf

In theory, the small space available means they will choose the main points. By planning the ‘target’ areas in advance, they’re not left sitting at their desk – or perhaps more realistically, in front of the TV – wondering what to revise. It emphasizes the idea that at least some revision should result in something new written down. The summary at the bottom leaves room for 3-6 questions they could not have answered before completing the sheet, allowing future checking of their progress.

If repeated, this ends up with a student who has a set of complete revision notes, with headings and summaries, starting with the areas they personally find tricky. Can’t really ask for more than that.

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2 Responses to “Cornell Notes for revision”

  1. 1 CH

    Interesting blog. I will try this notes idea with my year 12s. Do you have any ideas for revision for less able/interested students ?

    • 2 IanH

      Glad you like the blog, and hope you find the ideas useful and productive (please let me know both good and bad outcomes – more testing of my planning is always a good thing!).

      As for less able students, or those less engaged… hmm. Do you have the facilities for recording videos? I’ve used 2 minute revision videos which the kids produced after storyboarding and scripting. I provided some of the key words and concepts, but you might find that a useful activity in itself. I’ve also shortened the videos and asked the kids to write them as adverts, an idea I stole from a friend. I then made the videos available via our intranet so the kids could download them all to home computers or mobile phones, although that may have been a little optimistic. It did make them raise their game as they realised they would be ‘public’.


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