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Strategy #7: Using the Cornell Method

Forty years ago, Walter Pauk developed what is known as the Cornell Notetaking Technique to help Cornell University students better organize their notes. Today, Pauk's notetaking technique is probably the most widely used system throughout the United States. Traditionally, it was used for taking notes in a class during a lecture. However, with some modification, this method can also be an effective notetaking strategy for reading.

The student divides the paper into two columns: the notetaking column (usually on the right) is twice the size of the key word column (on the left). The student should leave five to six lines, or about two inches, at the bottom of the page. In our modification, notes from the reading are written in the notetaking column. Notes usually consist of the main ideas of the text, and long ideas are paraphrased. Then, in the "Cues" and "Questions" column, relevant key words are written to be used as memory cues, and study questions can be formulated as well. After the notes have been taken, the student writes a brief summary at the bottom of the page. This helps to increase understanding of what has been read.

Here is how your students should divide their papers:

Please click the Document icon to download the table in Microsoft Word Format.

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Encourage your students to reflect on the material and review the notes regularly. The Cornell Method provides a systematic format for condensing and organizing notes. When studying for a test or quiz or preparing to write an essay, the student has a detailed record of what they read.