Academic coaches, tutors, teachers — are you looking for more and more ways to get students to actually remember what you teach them?!

In today’s video I analyze my wildly well-received note-taking presentation at a local high school, to break down what I did to help the content stick. I share 5 simple tips for teaching the critical skill of note-taking to students in a way that sticks and actually results in them taking better notes.So, please, watch the video.

Then, if you want more about how to teach information that sticks, I strongly recommend my upcoming free masterclass, Unlock Student LearningWe’ll still be talking about how to make lessons stick, but we’re zooming out to ask the question: How can we teach in such a way that we inspire students to unlock their own learning? 

I’ll be teaching a simple model you can integrate into your teaching, tutoring, and coaching AS SOON AS YOU LEARN IT. 

The timing is right on, too, because, believe it or not, final exams are right around the corner! (Yes, really.)

You can watch today’s video by clicking on the image below… or continue on to read the transcript.

I just taught the most wonderful workshop yesterday to a group of students and parents on note-taking at a local high school. And I thought in today’s video, I would unpack what I taught, why it was so successful, and how I did it. Are you an educator who’d like to learn from my example? Let’s dig in.

I’m exhausted from my speaking gig yesterday, and I was laying on my couch just noticing that the workshop was so good. In 50 minutes, I was able to take this group of 70 people through an intro to the two basic steps any good note-taking system needs, according to my Anti-Boring Approach; and practice how to do those two things; and give so many concrete examples that felt doable to students. At the end, I asked them to post in an online place what their takeaways were, and their takeaways were phenomena!

Sample Takeaways Shared by Students After the Presentation

  • “I want to hone my notes for my hardest class.” Note-honing, if you don’t know what that’s a reference to, is the process of going over your notes after you’ve already taken them and gleaning, sharpening, and pulling the most important pieces from it so you make your notes your own. It’s very important to me to make sure students understand that they don’t have to do anything I’m saying perfectly right–no perfection allowed. Instead, we want to just grab a small, teeny, tiny next step. And practice and experiment with that next step. So if all you want to do is practice honing your notes in your hardest class, that’s a great, teeny, tiny next step–you don’t have to do it in all your classes.
  • “I want to take Hone It notes on the bus or at home after school.” I love that they thought about the idea of “on the bus.” That shows that the way I was teaching helped them not just learn in the moment, but helped them imagine into their daily lives and how to actually put some of these note-taking tips into practice. (I’ll unpack a little bit later how I was able to do that, because I think that’s helpful for those of you who are educators and really care about helping students walk away with practical skills from your coaching sessions, or classroom teaching, or whatever it is that you do as an educator.) So this was really cool that they, on their own thought, “I can do it on the bus.” What a great, incremental way to do 10 minutes of gleaning from your classes that day.
  • “I will focus on listening more and copying less.” Ah, that’s wonderful! I think one of my skills is inserting relevant stories in a way that is different than the tip I was just sharing. The stories alert students, “oh, this is different. Something just changed. I want to hear this.” One of the side stories I hadn’t planned to tell yesterday was about a student, a sixth grader I was working with, who realized that when he was taking notes, he wasn’t listening to the teacher; it didn’t even occur to him to try to understand the teacher. He was just trying to write down every friggin’ thing the teacher said, right? So that point alone, “just listen when you’re taking notes.” It might seem fundamental, but students don’t often think of it. So what a thrilling takeaway!
  • “Make my note-taking more fun.” Of course, of course, of course, of course! If it’s not fun, then we’re not going to want to do it. And there can be so much pleasure in good note-taking. Unfortunately, I think teachers sometimes take the pleasure out of note-taking, but what’s great about note-taking is it’s a major opportunity for you to make the information you’re learning your own, to have your own system, to have your own secret code. That’s really exciting.
  • “I want to hone the way I like to for myself.” Oh, this made me so happy because I think the way many people teach academic skills makes it seem like you have to be less of yourself. We’re trying to be smart. And smartness, the way smartness looks in schools, takes me further away from my “me-ness.” And so I love that the student really got from the way I presented, that you get to do it the way you like, for yourself, and for nobody else. That is rockin’!
  • This one might seem more mundane, but I love it for its concreteness: “I want to date my notes.” Amazing. If that were all they took away, that would be huge actually. And then “I also want to try to make them more visual with boxes and arrows.” Again, simple, but if a student is starting to think about doing boxes and arrows, that means they’re starting to think about the quality of the idea that’s on the page and marking that in these visual ways. And that is is huge way to build your metacognition muscles.

I’m celebrating about all of these takeaways!

How I Did It

I’m not going to give you my outline, although it’s a pretty kickass outline. (If you take one of my courses and join my community, you’re free to have the outline if you would like it.) But what I am going to unpack–which is maybe more important because if you’re here, you’re probably really interested in how do we as educators inspire students to do something, anything differently, right?–is HOW I did it. Part of my work is to notice my quirky, unique way of showing up in the world and unpacking it to help other people understand how they might be more of themselves as educators.

Here’s what I think happened in the talk last night, which made it so successful.

  1. First of all, I was unabashedly myself. I do have energy, I’m quirky. And I let my quirks shine on that stage.

  2. I also taught a clear and simple model: two steps. That’s all, two steps. Easy peasy. [Again, if you want to learn more about my steps, enter my world. I have a great, free email course thingy for educators that introduces you to my Anti-Boring Approach to studying and it includes a nod to some of the note-taking content that I taught in this workshop as well. So check that out.] But that’s the clear, simple model that I taught. It’s memorizable in the course of an evening.

  3. Then, I didn’t just teach it, but we practiced together. I gave them a little mini-lecture about my life history and they had to take notes. And I caught them making a few note-taking mistakes from the stage, right, because I know note-takers. I pointed out the mistakes and I had them practice something different. It was fun. There was laughter and there was like, “Oh God, you caught me.”

  4. Related to that, I help students notice. It is a skill I have that I try to model in my Anti-Boring Educators’ Community. I think it’s a learnable skill–that turns you from a good educator into a great educator–to pause and help students notice, “What’s happening right now? How’s your brain thinking right now? What’s happening on the page, if you’re taking notes? Now, how are you learning?” To pause in these little, quick, bite-sized ways and help them notice, notice, notice, notice. The better we notice, the better we can think and learn, so I infuse moments of noticing into my presentations.

  5. I build in a lot of choice. Although what I taught yesterday was a clear model with two steps, you can apply those two steps in a myriad of ways depending on how you want to and what lights you up. I was really clear about that, about how you can be more yourself. You can be more yourself because there are choices. And I modeled being myself so the students, hence, could feel free to be themselves. I showed how you can marry the tools, the two steps, into your personality and your interests. And I think that’s one reason why the students were able to walk away with such rich reflections after just a 50-minute presentation, right?

    So, I wish you out there, educators reading this, I wish you a journey of being more and more yourself. You don’t have to be like me, right? Not everybody has my energy. Not everybody has my quirky lens on the world. But the more you can unlock who you are and let that radiate out for students and then teach a clearer toolkit, the more you are going to feel that satisfaction of students who really get it, and who really take off, and who really integrate what you’re teaching in their lives.

    Once again, if you’d like to join me for a free masterclass where we’re going to dive even deeper into how we can help students take charge of their own learning, please join me this Saturday, March 13 at my FREE masterclass  Unlock Student Learning!

    See you Saturday!