Instructor Manual: Taking Notes, Writing and Speaking


Click the above link to view Word documents for all the handouts for this chapter. 




Taking Notes

Note-Taking Preview Exercise


We learn by making connections to what we already know from our personal experience.  It is helpful for students to start with what they know so that they can relate to the material and can connect to it.   For example, to introduce the topic of note taking, get students in groups and ask them to brainstorm what they know about the topic.  Each group shares one idea until the ideas are exhausted.  Then students are ready for new information about note taking.  The preview exercise helps them to connect knowledge to what they know already and enhances memory.  It sets the stage and gets students motivated for learning.   

Here are some guidelines for effective groups: 

  • Give clear directions for the group before students start moving into the groups. 
  • Set a definite time limit for the group.  Most discussion groups should be around 5-7 minutes.  Remember the task expands to fit the time available. 
  • Establish a quota of what is to be accomplished.  Challenge the group to come up with 10 ideas in 5-7 minutes. 
  • Get students into groups quickly and have a method for getting students into groups.  There are many ways to get students into groups. 
    • Each row is a group
    • Count off as in sports teams
    • Have group assignments for the week, month or semester.
  • To get all students involved, make sure every group member has a role to play.  Here are some examples of roles:
    • Reporter: Reports best ideas of group. 
    • Leader: Keeps the group on task
    • Note Taker: Takes notes
    • Time Keeper:  Makes sure the group finishes on time
    • Writer: Writes the best ideas on the board    

One problem with groups sharing discussion is that the first group reports on all the best ideas and then the rest have less to say.  Use the rapid fire technique for reporting from each of the groups.  When groups share information, each group shares one idea and the next group rapidly shares an idea until all ideas are exhausted.  In this way, the discussion moves quickly and each group has equal opportunity to share. 


Why Take Notes?


Show a video and ask students to simply enjoy the video without taking notes.  After the video, ask students to write down what they remembered.  Usually their recall is limited.  Then replay the video and ask students to take notes.  They will notice that they remember much more when they take notes.  Use this exercise to begin a discussion on the importance of taking notes. 


Good sources of videos are educational channels on TV or news specials. 


Cornell Format


Have students practice taking notes in the Cornell format.  First explain the format and then give a mini-lecture or show a video and have the students take notes.  Have a model of the notes that you would take yourself.  Have the students compare their notes and your notes and ask questions. 

Using the Cornell Format on the Computer

Give your students the option of taking notes on their computer.  Many students can type faster than they can write and using the computer has the advantage of having Spell Check available.  Use the Cornell Format Template for note taking on a computer.  
(Idea submitted by Jim Gard, Scottsdale Community College.) 


Mind Mapping


Demonstrate the use of a mind map.  Use a mini-lecture or video and have students do a mind map.  Start with the main idea in the center and put the details around the center idea.  Share examples of mind maps. 


Group Activity: A Case Study


Use the A Case Study of a new student in college as the basis of a group discussion on how to take notes. 


Summarize Your Note Taking Skills


For the printed edition, use the Note Taking Checklist to assess note taking skills.  Then use Evaluate Your Note Taking Skills to analyze skills and write some intention statements for the future.  These exercises are integrated into the online edition. 



Assess Your Writing Skills


For the printed edition, there is a handout, Assess Your Writing Skills, which helps students evaluate their writing.  Follow this assessment with the Thinking about Writing which helps students make plans for improvement.  These exercises are integrated into the online text. 

Plagiarism Case Study

In this case study, "The Pressure of Being Denise," students discuss a scenario in which Denise is caught plagiarizing a paper from an online source and the consequences she had to face.  Students are challenged to decide who is responsible for her dropping out of school.  There is also a Discussion Guide for this scenario. (This exercise was created by Dr. Frank Ardaiolo of Winthrop University.  Other case studies are available at:


Free Writing Exercise


Describe the process of free writing as described in the text. Choose any current event, political issue or interesting topic for this exercise.  Introduce the writing topic and give students five minutes to write whatever comes to mind.  Tell students not to worry about grammar or form, but to just write down their ideas on the paper for five minutes.  Usually students can write a half page or more in five minutes.  Suggest that this is a good activity to get started with writing and to overcome writer’s block.  The next step in this exercise is to look for the best idea or topic sentence.  Ask students to underline this sentence.  It is interesting to ask students to read their topic sentences to the class.  Then discuss the idea of supporting ideas and paragraph structure. 


For example, I have used a short magazine article about a young woman who became HIV positive.  I read the article and ask students to write whatever comes to mind.  I ask them to underline their best sentence and then see if there are volunteers who want to share their best sentence with the class.  Since this is a sensitive topic, some people do not volunteer.  I collect these papers and share some of the highlights as an introduction to the health chapter.


The One Minute Paper


Challenge your students to do free writing on a topic for just one minute.  Here are some ideas for writing prompts:

What is the most important thing you learned today?

What is the best idea you learned from the video (discussion, guest speaker) today?

What is the most useful idea you learned today?


This technique can be used when you need to put in a short exercise to involve students in learning.  It can also be used to introduce a topic or get discussion going.  After students have written their one minute paper, ask for volunteers or call on students to share their ideas. 



Some Introductory Public Speaking Exercises


Most new college students are anxious about public speaking.  Using some brief public speaking exercises can provide valuable experience without causing too much anxiety.  Here are some ideas for quick and fun speaking experiences:


·        Use the handout called Name Exercise to have students introduce and describe themselves.    


·        Ask students to prepare a one-minute speech on some object that they have in their purses, wallets, pockets or notebooks.  If you have a large group, limit the speech to 30 seconds. 


·        Make a one-minute speech, “What I like about myself.”  This exercise gives students the opportunity to share some positive thoughts about themselves.  It can also be done quickly in large classes. 


·        Give an assignment to think about the following questions for the next day:  Tell about something you did yesterday that was kind.  Tell about something you did that was healthy.  Tell about something you learned.  Students may bring 3 X 5 cards with cues if they need them.  The next day, ask students to give a short speech on these topics.  Have them begin the speech by stating their name and college major.  Limit the speeches to a minute or two. 


  • Have students do a five minute process speech such as how to mountain climb, how to dance, how to make spaghetti or fly an airplane. 


 Use the Text as a Future Reference


You may not have time to cover term papers and public speaking in depth.  Present the highlights of these topics and suggest to the students that this book be used as a future reference and a resource when they are assigned term papers and speeches in other classes.  The Power Point presentation that accompanies the text presents the highlights of these topics. 


For Online Classes:


Online Discussion Question


Read the chapter on taking notes, writing and speaking and then comment on this scenario:

John is a new college student who has just graduated from high school. He is not sure what he wants to do with his life, but his parents want him to go to college. He misses the first class in Psychology 101 because he thinks nothing important happens on the first day. On the second day of class, John walks into class and finds some friends from high school. He takes a seat near them and starts a lively conversation. He has no books, paper, or pencil.


The lecture is on the biological foundations of behavior. The topic is new for John and he is unfamiliar with the terms and concepts used in the lecture. He notices that the professor is wearing a tie that he must have purchased in 1970 and has an irritating habit of scratching his head. In addition, he is boring and speaks in a dull and monotonous way. John finds it difficult to concentrate. He becomes sleepy and starts to doze off during the lecture. At the end of the lecture, John realizes that he is going to have problems with psychology. For the next class, John brings a tape recorder and records the class. Again he finds it difficult to stay awake during the lecture. He works late at night and has scheduled this class for 8:00 in the morning.


What suggestions can you make to help John be successful in his psychology class?  Use your ideas as well as those presented in the chapter.