Education note-taking

Why Effective Note-Taking is So Important

Taking notes can be a daunting prospect for young children and adults alike. This is mostly because not many of us are ever taught effective note-taking techniques. 

One simple way to reduce anxiety about this skill when teaching it to your child is to use a more fun phrase, such as jotting down or doodling. The word jot means to write or mark down quickly, while to doodle is to draw or scribble idly. If your child can master the art of automatically, yet present-mindedly, recording critical information from a young age, genius awaits!

Note-taking is a relatively complex skill and can take years to master. The principles that your child must follow, however, can be taught in hours. The people of Victorian England developed a couple of excellent shorthand systems that help note-takers to keep up with even the most rapid speakers.

In his article, This Writing System Was Invented To Make Note-Taking an Easier Task, Robert J. Watson provides a great explanation of shorthand systems. This technique can be so impressive that you may soon find yourself searching for a shorthand writing course to send your child on!

Effective note-taking requires both hemispheres of the brain

Most of us have a rudimentary understanding of the left brain vs. right brain dynamic. It goes something like; left = logic,order & structure while right = creative, artistic & analytical. Of course, the reality is always is slightly more nuanced, however, this example is sufficient for most purposes. 

True memory magic only starts to happen when you get these two hemispheres working in tandem. Both are vital to mastering effective note-taking by doodling present-mindedly. Your child’s left hemisphere needs to use a format to help it maintain a course when doodling. Below are some examples of systems that can help with this task:

  • The Tree
  • The Brick
  • The Key Image
  • The Bubble

All of these formats help to create order on a page. Learning all four will give your child the option to choose whichever system their brain desires on a particular day.


Effective note-taking is an extremely difficult skill to master. The process can take years. To begin with, your child will only be able to extract a couple of pieces of critical information while making notes. You should certainly count this as a success! After all, even the longest journeys begin with a first step. 

Using techniques such as colour coding and adding pictures will further strengthen effective note-taking abilities. The right brain hemisphere will delight in this task! As your child begins to practice and master the art of doodling present-mindedly, you should start to notice less open-mouthed, blank-faced stares. Hearing them tell you things they have learned or better yet, carrying out tasks without being told twice, is extremely rewarding for all involved!

About the Author

Kath lives with her husband and 3 young children in a small coastal town in South Africa. She is a speech therapist, who worked in London, Private Practices in Cape Town and KZN and then finally taught at Livingstone Remedial School in KZN, South Africa for 3 years. During this time, Daren Denholm, her memory guru husband, trained her up to compete with him at the 2011 World Memory Championships in China, while she was 6 months pregnant with their first child! The Chinese competitors complained that she was cheating because she had 2 brains. She sat next to the youngest competitor, a 9 year old Chinese girl. It was at this point that the Online Little Genius Puppets program was conceived.

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