Study and Note-Taking Strategies

Many students with LDs have a tendency to be disorganized with their notes, and as such, will have more difficulty reviewing them at home when studying. An explicit lesson on effective note-taking, as well as ongoing scaffolding for note-taking, can benefit all students, but can be absolutely essential for those struggling with their own organizational skills.

The Cornell Method is easy to learn and is especially useful for those using assistive technology like a Chromebook in lessons to take notes. Students create a table with two columns: on the left are big ideas like concepts and keywords, and on the right is more detailed information and explanations. See figure 1 below for an example.

Fig 1.

Cornell Method How It’s Used
Setting up your page ·         Keywords on the left

·         Information on the right

Why try? ·         Helps you focus your notes
How to use it for studying ·         Cover up one side of the page

·         Try to recite the covered information

Prioritization may also be a significant challenge for students with LDs. Many students have trouble identifying what information is important in their notes and memory aids. It can be helpful for teachers to provide a test outline of key information or review a student's notes or memory aid prior to the test, using a highlighter, to help students understand what information is most important to learn to be successful on the upcoming test or exam.

Memory Aids

As an educator, it is important that you know the school policy on things like memory aids used during exams, and the provincial policy for standardized tests such as the grade 9 EQAO. You should not prepare students to use aids that would not be allowed in a testing situation as it can leave a student feeling like the rug has been pulled from under them when they suddenly are not allowed to have them.

It is also important to know that memory aids are:

  • Not a “cheat sheet” or study notes
  • Triggers understanding and knowledge
  • Often involve mnemonics, colour-coding, diagrams, formulas.
  • An accommodation regularly available at the postsecondary level [1]

Memory aids should be simple reminders of things that may be difficult to retrieve in long-term memory that will then allow the student time to focus on adding more fine detail in their answers.

For example, a student may create a mnemonic to help remember the six different kingdoms of life in biology, which would allow the student more time to recall features and differences between each of them.

Teachers should be sure students are not creating too many memory aids or including too much information, because this can actually become detrimental, as students will become overwhelmed or stressed trying to remember all the aids they have created. Teachers should help students in the initial creation of memory aids to ensure they are effective, and then encourage them to use them and create further examples on their own.

[1] Dworet & Sands, 2017