Note Taking For Students With Learning Disabilities

Danielle Magid

Joseph Boyle, in his 2006 article discusses the importance of note-taking skills for students with Learning Disabilities

What general education needs to know

Many students with learning disabilities do not have the privilege of going to a private school that specializes in special education. Therefore, many L.D. students are placed in a general education setting, but they fall behind the norm because they are not given the proper tools to succeed. For that reason, it should be the teacher’s goal to give all of his/her students the ability to succeed in the classroom. A big hurtle for L.D. students is note-taking, and this is a hurtle for many reasons. Students who have learning disabilities have trouble listening to a lecture, given by their teacher, and writing notes from that lecture. They might have auditory processing problems that stand in the way of listening to the information, and then writing it down on paper. As Boyle states in his article, “Students with learning disabilities are unable to use an active and organized plan while processing information in short-term/working memory” (p. 92). So why not give students who have learning disabilities, and who have to learn in a general education atmosphere, the right tools in order to be efficient note-takers?

The benefits to teaching Learning Disabled students how to take notes

In this study done by, Joseph R. Boyle, he examines three different ways to help students with learning disabilities become better and more efficient note-takers.

The first method he studied was called, “Strategic Note Taking”, and it put a lot of emphasis on the student filling in the blanks before the lecture. There are a series of questions that the student must answer before the lecture, and then there are questions the student must answer during the lecture, and questions for after the lecture is complete. This method proved to be effective, but a little time consuming on the teacher’s part, because he/she needed to have this sheet prepared before class time.

The second method Boyle looked at, was the “Guided method”, which consisted of only three sections. This format was used for comparing and contrasting. An example is shown below:

Comparison of Mars and Earth
I. Similarities- Mars and Earth
II. Differences
III. Effect of an atmosphere on planets
This method was to be completed while the teacher is giving the lecture, in order for the student to realize what he or she must be listening for. The information on this outline is what the teacher wants the student to gain from the lecture. This method proved to be a guided way of taking notes and helped the student gain an understanding of important information versus not quite as important.

The third method looked at in this study was the, “Columnar Format”, which was used no so much for the student to takes notes on, but for the students to listen for the points that are directly talked about. On this format, the teacher gives basic ideas, background information, and a question for the student to be thinking about. The student looks over the sheet before the lecture, and keeps it with him/her to reflect on through out the lecture. This method proved to be strong as well, because it aided the student to keep in mind what the teacher thought was important in the lecture.

What this means to us

This article proposes that if we are going to put L.D. students into a general education setting, then we need to give them the tools to succeed. In addition, one of those tools is becoming an efficient note-taker. Boyle has provided three very reasonable methods that teachers of special education and general education, can use in their classrooms to benefit all the students.

It is important to recognize that note-taking is not a simple task; it takes a lot of awareness and attentiveness to be done effectively. Boyle suggests that at the beginning of the school year, teachers should review the objective of note-taking, and explain to the students’ different ways it can be done. Furthermore, he suggest for special education and general education that the three methods listen above can and have been proven to help students succeed in retaining information as well as becoming active learners.

Boyle, R., Joseph. “Learning from Lectures: The Implications of Note-taking for Students with Learning Disabilities.” Learning Disabilities A Multidisciplinary Journal 14 (2006) : 91-98.