Strategies for Organizing Notes

12 Oct

There are a lot of ways to organize your thinking.

  • notes on file cards
  • facts on sticky note that can be moved around
  • facts on pages with different headings
  • notes you can cut up and reorganize

Earlier this year, we used different colored highlighters to help students visually see how to cluster their information.  We were creating brochures on the regions of California.  Students took notes on each region separately–desert, mountains, valley, coast–but I wanted them to try organizing their information within their brochure.  This was our first project of the year, and it wasn’t a major one, so we went for a system that was engaging and fast.  I have never met a kid who didn’t love a highlighter, and it’s a nice visual way to show them how to organize notes.

First, we looked at an example/non-example of an organized paragraph.  We read each paragraph, and highlighted the similar sections together: geography, living factors, resources and activities, and voice.  (I wasn’t going to harp on author’s craft, but I wanted the students ready to put some life into their brochures to go ahead and do it.)

photo 1 (1)

With my first class, I let them then organize their notes using whatever colors they wanted, but that wasn’t supported enough.  For the second class, we came up with colors and categories together, so everyone was on the same page.

photo 2 copy

Students then began to highlight their notes.  It was messy, and we had a lot of negotiating to do as we figured out where facts that didn’t quite fit any category should go, but students were engaged during the 1 photo 2

Then they were ready to write!  The final products generally showed facts clustered together (or better yet, combined into one or two more complex sentences) and they gave me a good sense of where students needed to go next.

photo 3    photo 4


Transition words, here we come :).

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