Note Taking Skills


Note taking skills allow students to interact with their texts for greater comprehension. Note taking skills allow students to develop summarizing, paraphrasing, and organizational skills. These skills are useful for reading in the content areas, completing research, and synthesizing and applying these skills to create well-written, focused, and organized pieces of writing.

Note Taking Skills Lesson Plan Includes:

  • Full Teacher Guidelines with Creative Teaching Ideas
  • Instructional Content Pages about Note Taking Skills
  • Hands-on homework activities giving students practice on Note Taking
  • Answer Keys
  • Common Core State Standards
  • Many Additional Links and Resources
  • Built for Grades 4-6 but can be adapted for other grade levels.

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Note taking skills allow students to interact with their texts for greater comprehension.  The lesson instructs students in three different types of note taking: summarizing, color-coding, and creating graphic organizers.  A chart of guidelines for summarizing is included, which encourages students to “think like a reporter.”  Color-coding focuses on finding main ideas in the text.  Graphic organizers help students draw a map and have a visual representation of the information they read.  These skills are useful for reading in the content areas, completing research, and synthesizing and applying these skills to create well-written, focused, and organized pieces of writing.

Sample Classroom Procedure / Teacher Instruction: 

  1. Print out or pull up and display the biography of Martin Luther King Jr. found on this page: Choose another biography or nonfiction text if you prefer, but your topic/ discussion for following steps would have to be modified.
  2. Ask the students if they have ever heard of Martin Luther King Jr. Hopefully some in your class will be familiar with him. Ask students to tell you any facts that they can remember about him. Some quick responses might be: He was a civil rights leader/ he wanted equal rights for African Americans, he was assassinated, he gave a famous speech, etc. If students are unable to, provide them with three to five brief facts. Say, “The things that you mentioned are key details or facts that stand out when we learn about Martin Luther King Jr. This biography of Martin Luther King Jr. is much longer, isn’t it?” (Scroll through or flip through pages to show the length of the piece). Continue by saying, “Sometimes when we read important information, we especially need to remember the most important details and facts. Instead of re-reading the entire piece of text every time we need to remember those facts, we can take notes. Note taking skills will help you recall and remember information, and also help you to organize information that you may want to refer to when writing about a topic. There are several ways that we can take notes. The three ways we’re going to learn about are: summarizing, color-coding, and using graphic organizers.”
  3. Ask students if they can define summarizing. If not, offer the explanation that summarizing means taking a lot of text or lot of information and being able to retell the key information/main ideas from it in only a few sentences. Think like a reporter! Instead of retelling everything that happens in an event, a reporter gives the most important information and the key details. Here is a helpful chart that gives you tips on how to summarize information. (Create this anchor chart with students.)


Summarizing! Think like a reporter, use the “three M”s.

 Make it Short-  Don’t write down everything in the text. You want to take a long piece of text and make it shorter.

Main Ideas- What is the focus of the text? What are the most important details and ideas to include?

Meaningful- A summary has to be short, but it has to include information that is meaningful! Make sure that what you include will help people understand the topic.


Note Taking Connection:

As you read text:

Stop after each paragraph

●       Write down the main idea from the paragraph

●       Write down two supporting details

After reading the text:

●       Look at your notes for each paragraph

●       Identify the big idea

●       Choose the most important main ideas and details

●       Create a summary paragraph that identifies the text, the topic, the main ideas, and why it’s meaningful.



using the text found here:


The biography(text) of Martin Luther King Jr (topic). discussed his life and achievements (main idea). It focused on his work as a peaceful protester seeking Civil Rights for African Americans (supporting detail). His work for peace and equality made him well loved by many, but also a target for hatred. He was assassinated because of his work for this cause(supporting detail). His life story teaches others to seek equality, fairness, and peace(meaningful).



  1. Have students return to their seats and choose a partner. With a partner, they will complete the summarizing worksheet (Activity Page 1).
  2. Meet with partner pairs as they’re working on the sheet. After everyone is finished, ask students to read their summary paragraphs. If the students have summarized the main ideas correctly, the paragraphs should be very similar, although they may include different details.
  3. Day two: On the smart board, pull up the same Martin Luther Jr. biography used previously . Ask students to explain the summarizing method of taking notes as a warm up/review. Once students have completed that, explain that they will now complete another type of note-taking, which is based on color coding. Distribute printed copies of the biography and ask students to get out yellow, blue, and green highlighters, colored pencils or crayons. Do not use regular markers as they will bleed through the paper. If students use crayons or pencils, they will want to underline or shade lightly so as not to obscure the text.
  4. Explain that sometimes when we read large chunks of informational text, it all begins to “blur together”. We already learned how to summarize text, but what if we want to look at it and at a glance know where to find the main idea of each paragraph? Or important dates? Or the most important people? Color coding text will let you automatically look back after reading and let you target main ideas, people, or dates. This is an active note taking and active reading technique that can be used in conjunction with or in place of summarizing.
  5. As students read, they should highlight /underline the main idea of each paragraph in yellow. They should mark important dates in blue. They should mark important people in green. Working as a whole class, have students volunteer to read aloud and pause at the end of each paragraph to decide what parts of the paragraph should be colored yellow, green, or blue.
  6. Working independently with Activity Page 2- Students will color code the text included.
  7. Day three: Review the two note taking strategies already introduced, summarizing and color-coding. Introduce the final note taking strategy, using a graphic organizer, or concept map. Say, “There are many kinds of graphic organizers. They allow us to easily view and organize information. When we are reading a nonfiction text, we’re learning about a specific topic, event, or figure. We can take notes in a way that lets us see the main ideas and the concepts and key details that relate to it. Let’s return to Martin Luther King Jr. biography and create a graphic organizer as we read.

Common Core State Standards: 


Class Sessions (45 minutes): 4 class sessions.

Additional Resources:

Want more language arts resources? Check out our other Language Arts Lesson Plans!

Additional information

Grade Level

4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade


Language Arts