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Structured Notes

The Structured Notes strategy offers students a graphical organizer for note-taking during reading selected text. Unlike most graphical organizers (that tend to provide a single generic form for all tasks), Structured Notes calls on teachers to create a specific form based on the unique organization of each reading assignment.

This visual tool greatly assists students as they interpret complex reading selections. Most importantly, the teacher-produced note-taking structure provides a model for the type of organizational strategies students should apply when reading.

Steps to Structured Notes:

  1. Provide each student with a custom note-taking organizer for a reading selection.

  2. Have students complete the form during reading. Encourage them to review their responses and make any needed revisions after reading the selection.

  3. Engage students in a point-by-point discussion of responses to the organizer's prompts. Focus the discussion on any divergent analyses or interpretations.

  4. Once the exercise is complete, discuss the process behind building the custom organizers. Point out that while subject matter may vary widely, text documents tend to fall into a limited number of easily recognized organizational schemas (e.g., chronological order, list and explain, define and give examples, compare and contrast, etc.). Encourage students to recognize these organizational patterns in documents they read.

Learn More:

  • Smith, P., & Tompkins, G. (1988). "Structured notetaking: A new strategy for content area teachers." Journal of Reading, 32, 46-53.