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Teachers: Literacy: Text

Last Updated: Monday March 27 2006 13:59 GMT

Note-taking and handwriting

Tip of fountain pen (Picture: 1998 EyeWire, Inc)
E-mails and texts are replacing writing and as a result handwriting is on the way out, according to a survey.

The research shows that half of written communication is by e-mail, 29% by text message and only 13% by pen and paper.

Students look at the occasions they put pen to paper and practise their note-taking and handwriting skills.

Learning aims

By the end of the lesson, students should have a deeper understanding of:

  • Occasions when they use pen and paper
  • The advantages of note-taking
  • Using notes to create a piece of text you can understand
  • Using notes to write a piece of text others can understand

A girl writing on paper with a pen

Comment analysis

Print out and distribute copies of these comments, posted by children on the Newsround website.

Ask students to scan the comments and make a list of reasons people put pen to paper e.g. exam, postcard, diary.

Students who complete this task earlier than the rest of the class, can add their own comment to the list, either on paper, or online, using the form on the right-hand side of the comments page.

Main activity

Ask the group to brainstorm times when:

  • It's useful to take down information quickly e.g. taking notes over the phone
  • You need to write something down and you don't have access to a mobile phone or computer e.g. during an exam
Write a class list of suggestions.

Note-taking for yourself

In pairs, students take on the role of:

  • A Person giving directions to a party
  • B Person making a note of the directions
A decides where the party is being held e.g. a local restaurant.

A imagines they are calling B. They explain how to get from school to the party. They can add other information such as date, time, fancy dress etc.

B makes notes as A talks. B must NOT ask A to speak more slowly. At the end of the conversation, B can only ask ONE question to help them clarify the directions.

B revises or re-writes his notes so that he/she is sure of the directions.

B reads them back to A . A checks their accuracy.

A and B swap roles and repeat the exercise.

Note-taking for someone else

Making rough notes you can understand is fine, but what if someone else, such as an examiner, is going to read your work? Explain to students, that sometimes you have to write your notes up into legible handwriting.

Using an exam question from an old paper, demonstrate how to make notes in preparation for an answer.


  • Highlighting key words in the question
  • Brainstorming ideas
  • Using colour or boxing to make the key ideas stand out
  • Illustrating your ideas with examples
Distribute copies of an old exam question to students and ask them to make notes, following your example.

Now, demonstrate writing up the notes into an answer. Draw students attention to the importance of sticking to the question and making sure someone else can read it.

Students follow your example, turning their notes into a legible answer.

Extension activity

Wall display

Students make a wall display of the note-making process. This involves adding an "explanation arrow."

On a sugar-paper cut-out of an arrow, students write down how they turned the initial notes into a finished piece of handwriting e.g. After brainstorming all the ideas, I used a coloured pen to highlight the three main ones.

Display the work and the explanation arrows on the classroom wall to remind students of the process.


Students read out their directions or exam answer to the rest of the class.

They share any note-taking techniques they fond useful.

Curriculum relevance

National Curriculum Key stage 3 English, En3 Writing

5. Pupils should be taught to write with fluency and, when required, speed. In presenting final polished work, pupils should be taught to:

  • a. ensure that work is neat and clear
  • b. write legibly, if their work is handwritten
  • c. make full use of different presentational devices where appropriate.
10. Pupils should also be taught to use writing for thinking and learning (for example, for hypothesising, paraphrasing, summarising, noting).

Teachers' background

The IPA TouchPoints survey referred to at the top of the lesson plan was based on 5,000 people who updated an electronic diary every half-hour for a week.

It suggests that half of written communication is by e-mail, 29% by text message and just 13% by pen and paper.

The results among those aged 15 to 24 who took part showed only 5% of their communications were by pen and paper, a lot lower than the older people.

Yet despite the growing use of the internet and other new media, most people still spend more time watching television and listening to the radio.

For hundreds more news-based stories, click on Teachers on the left-hand side.

Curriculum relevence

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