Lesson Plan of the Day: Why and How to Take Cornell Notes

Because she’s dead I won’t mention her name. Actually she might have been dead when she was my teacher. She was my World History teacher in 9th grade and happens to be the worst teacher I’ve ever had. That’s 12 years of school, followed by an undergraduate degree from the Harvard of the West (UNLV), a graduate degree from the aforementioned bastion of higher learning, and numerous additional courses to keep my teaching license.

That’s the 1990 National Champion UNLV Rebels! Put that in your Cornell Notes, people.

That’s a lot of teachers. And she was the worst. Each class was the same: Read the chapter. Outline the chapter. Test on Friday. Perhaps she should have taught us how to take Cornell Notes instead.

Before we explain how to take Cornell Notes, let’s look at ELA Common Core Standards covered by the Cornell note-taking system.

  • RI.9-10.1 – Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text (when used as part of a reading assignment).
  • W.9-10.1e – Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from and supports the argument presented.
  • W.9-10.2a – Introduce a topic; organize complex ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings); graphics (e.g., figures, tables); and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

Other standards and skills will be accomplished depending on the subject of the notes.Cornell Notes Template

How to take Cornell Notes.

Cornell notes are not a magic formula. Taking them still requires note-taking skills. For a lesson on how to take Cornell notes, follow the link. Here’s a link to a  Cornell Notes Template.

Why Cornell Notes?

Remember when you were in school and your teacher droned on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on about stuff you didn’t care about, but you took notes anyhow. And at the end of class you took those notes, crumpled them up and threw them in your locker, never to be seen again… until 5 minutes before the quiz over those aforementioned notes, at which time you studied feverishly and somehow pulled a ‘C’, at which time you took those notes, crumpled them up threw them in a trash can, never to be seen again!!!!!

And although we know that’s a crappy method for teaching new material, we do the same dang thing because that’s just the way it’s done. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s what happens with Cornell Notes:

  1. Some things never change.

    Teacher drones on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on about stuff students don’t care about.

  2. And/or student reads about stuff they’re not really interested in.
  3. Students take notes.
  4. Teacher finishes talking and/or students finish reading.
  5. Students must then read their notes and write down questions answered by the notes.
  6. Students must then look at their notes again and look at their questions again in order to write a summary.
  7. Students then take the notes, crumple them up and throw them in their back pack, but since they’ve already looked at the material three times, they’re likely to not need them until 5 minutes before the quiz.

To avoid the crumpling up part, you may want to require organization or throw together a Cornell Notes Rubric.

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