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Note taking practice


In this lesson, students will learn some tips and tricks for journalistic note taking and practice taking notes from a guest speaker, video or prepared speech.


  • Students will devise their own system to take effective notes.
  • Students will practice note taking from a guest speaker or prepared speech.
  • Students will practice taking notes during recorded interviews for ease of transcription and identification of sound bites.
This lesson may be used together with Interviewing Basics or any of the other Interviewing lessons in this module (Interviewing practice, Interview with a pro, Press conference) or as a mini-lesson for students who need extra help with note taking.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11-12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2.b Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.


One 50-minute class plus part of a second class period, use as a mini-lesson, or use as part of another interviewing lesson, as shown below


Slideshow: Note taking

Handout: Interview questions

Flip-top notebook for each student (steno or reporter’s notebook)

Rubric: Interview notes

Lesson step-by-step


1. Set, Tap Prior Knowledge – 5-10 minutes

Start by asking students about their note-taking skills. What problems do they have? What tricks do they already use? Ask them how they would apply what they already know to journalistic note taking. Encourage discussion.

2. Present – 15-20 minutes

Show the note taking slideshow, emphasizing tips to making note taking easy, and encouraging students not to rely solely on technology

3. Activity (options offered below)

Pass out the Interview Questions handout. Working in pairs, one student should ask the other as many questions as possible from the handout, taking notes, for 10-15 minutes, then switch. Use whatever time is left in the period after the slideshow so that each student gets time to ask and answer questions.

4. Homework

Instruct students to take their notes home, highlight quotes and facts and note quotes and facts that need to be checked. Their highlighted notes will be their entry ticket to the next day’s class.


1. Entry Ticket

Check highlighted notes for a daily grade or entry ticket.

2. Activity – 10-20 minutes

Allow 5-10 minutes for each student to ask follow-up questions and check facts.

3. Reflect and Assess

Ask student to discuss the process of note taking. What worked? What didn’t? Do they think they could develop a story from the notes they took? Collect notes and grade according to the “Transcribing Notes and Quotes” section of the Interview Notes Rubric for a daily grade.


Rather than doing the short activity in the lesson plan above, use the Note Taking slideshow as a mini-lesson to combine with an actual interview or note-taking opportunity. Options include:

  • Inviting a guest speaker to your class
  • Showing a video about journalism or journalism history
  • Presenting a panel discussion

This lesson may also be used with other lessons in this module:

Interviewing basics: Add the “Note taking slideshow” to Part Three of the “Interviewing basics” lesson in this module before students begin interviewing each other. For beginners who need help coming up with questions, the interview questions handout with this lesson may also be useful.

Interviewing practice: If you do not include this lesson in the interviewing basics, you can use it before you assign students to interview an adult in this lesson.

Interview with a pro: Use this as a mini-lesson on your first check-on day before students conduct their interview.

Press conference: On the day students prep for the press conference by conducting background research, use the “Note taking slideshow” as a reminder about how to take notes.


This lesson is simple enough for beginners, with questions and interviewee provided. Advanced and honors students can use this as a mini-lesson or part of a broader project that includes interviewing and note taking.