How to Implement the Two-Column Note-Taking Teaching Strategy in Your Classroom


The two-column note-taking method encourages learners to identify applicable information in a lecture, film, or reading and then respond to this material. You can utilize this method to prepare learners to participate in a discussion or begin a writing activity. Having learners take two-column notes is also an effective way to help you identify learners’ misconceptions and questions about a topic and to assess learners’ comprehension of the material.


  1. Prepare: Make sure that learners have a journal, notebook, or graphic organizer to record their notes. The page they record notes on must be divided in half with a line or fold. The left side must be labeled “Key Ideas,” and the right side must be labeled “Response.” The category labeled “Key Ideas” often denotes the main points of the content, but it can also include supporting details. Inform learners about the depth and breadth of note-taking you expect. Prompts you can utilize for the left column are as follows: What concepts are most important to remember? What new ideas have been introduced? The “Response” category denotes questions, interpretations, and relationships. Prompts you can utilize for the right-hand column include: What questions does this information raise for you? What other ideas, events, or content does this information remind you of? Why do you think this information is essential and applicable to the unit you are currently studying? How does this info connect to your everyday life? What do you think of these ideas? If this is the first time learners have engaged in this kind of note-taking, you must discuss what is meant by “key ideas” and “response” and then model this technique with them.
  2. Allow Learners to Take Notes: When everyone is listening to a lecture, watching a film, or reading the content, have learners record information in both the left and right columns of their charts. It may be difficult for some learners to record information in both columns at the same time, especially during a lecture or film. You may suggest that learners first record information in the left-hand column. Once they finish hearing, reading, or watching the content, they can record their responses in the right-hand column. When possible, encourage learners to review the content to check the accuracy of the information they recorded and to pick up ideas they may have missed.
  3. Allow Learners to Share Their Notes: Sharing notes with a partner or small group can help learners retain information, give them feedback on their note-taking skills, and provide them with an opportunity to add to their notes with the information they may have missed.
  4. Allow Learners to Self-Assess: Many instructors assume that learners know how to take notes. But often, learners are never explicitly taught how to take thorough notes efficiently. To help learners recognize their strengths and needs as note-takers, allow them to reflect on how this process is working and not working for them. What is natural about note-taking? What is difficult? Then you may have a class discussion in which learners present their note-taking strategies and questions.


Alternate Headings: You can select any headings for the two columns that meet the needs of your learning activity or lesson. Other possibilities include:

  • Valuable Quotation/Meaning of Quotation
  • Pro Argument/Con Argument
  • Facts/Opinions
  • Argument/Supporting Evidence
Choose your Reaction!