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Graphic and Note-Taking Organizers

Strategies for Teaching Note-Taking

One of the best ways to avoid the pitfalls of over-teaching and under-teaching complex texts is to teach students to compose visual and verbal representations of their reading by means of frequent teacher modeling and partnered practice.

Standards: With guided practice using and creating graphic organizers and note-taking templates to demonstrate comprehension and analysis of a text, students will gain mastery over time of the standards for Reading Literature (RL) and Informational Text (RIT), in addition to W2, W9, and W10. 

Modeling the Process

The first step, pre-reading, is broad and brief and begins with a classroom conversation:

  • What do you think you know about the topic or the author?
  • Think about the title. Are there subheadings? What do these tell us?
  • Is there a chapter summary? Read this.
  • Are there any charts, graphs, or pictures? What do these tell us?
  • Are there key vocabulary words listed in the text? Read these.
  • Notice the date of publication and possibly the source: these details provide a social context for the text. They can provide clues to the author’s purpose.
  • Make predictions about what this text will say and do. 

The second step is to read the text, just to get the literal meaning or central idea. This can be done in multiple ways: see the link to Reading in Class at this site.

The third step is to re-read the text actively, with a pencil, marker, or stylus in hand; see the Annotation link at this site. Review the literal meaning, notice the ways in which the text is put together, pay close attention to things that stand out, read between the lines to infer an author’s tone, purpose, or claim. Judge the text. Compare this text to other texts, and to what students know, think, and believe. Begin to see patterns.

The fourth step is to distribute either the Graphic Organizer Organizer (GOO) and / or the Note-Taking Organizer (NO). In small groups or with a partner, students select or create the most appropriate visual / verbal representation of their understanding of the ideas, concepts, patterns, and/or relationships in the text.        

To support students’ close reading of complex passages, view the illustrated directions for the CHoMP strategic note-taking strategy and a blank CHoMP template. The acronym stands for four close-reading actions: cross out, highlight, map, and paraphrase. To add a fifth and final action – summarize – when students are working on a series of passages from a single text, view the directions for CHoMPS.

Two very useful graphic templates for rhetorical texts that seek to persuade include the Rhetorical Triangle and the CommercialTriangle.

How will we know which graphic or note-taking organizer offers the best platform for a specific text or task? More often than not there will be multiple ways to represent the understanding of a single text. As students practice organizing and visualizing their understanding of texts, the Note-Taking Templates will be a helpful resource.

Reading and thinking are invisible acts until we lend them voice and vision. Whether the text is literary, informational, rhetorical, or technical, students will become more aware of their thinking and more actively engaged in the comprehension of complex texts when they practice strategies for making the abstract concrete.