Guided Notes

What are guided notes?

Guided notes can be described as a skeleton outline that lists main points of a verbal presentation and provides designated spaces for students to complete as the speaker elaborates on each main idea (Lazarus, 1991). 

How can guided notes help your students?

Guided notes require students to actively respond during the lecture, improve the accuracy and efficiency of students' note-taking, and increase the students' retention of course content. Guided notes can help organize and enhance lecture content in any discipline or subject area. Instructors can develop guided notes for a single lecture, for one or more units within a course, or for an entire semester- or year-long course (Heward, 2003).

How can you implement guided notes in order to effectively meet the diverse learning needs of students?

As increasing numbers of students with disabilities are included in the general education setting, strategies are needed that allow them to achieve alongside their non-disabled classmates. Research has shown that guided notes and guided notes with in-class review are promising strategies that promote skills among special education students who are included in the general education setting. Guided notes provide students with:

  • The opportunity to respond actively to lecture content.
  • A standard set of notes for study and review.
  • The chance to answer questions to clarify content.
    (Lazarus, 1993)

How do you construct your own guided notes?

Follow these guidelines to develop useful guided notes:

  • Adopt a consistent set of organizational cues (e.g., blanks, asterisks, bullets) to alert students about where, when, and how many concepts to record.
  • Try to strike a balance between an overly simplified fill-in-the-blank format (the student just fills in the occasional blank) and one that is extremely open-ended (the student must construct large stretches of notes independently).
  • As your class becomes more proficient at note-taking, you can gradually 'fade' the use of guided notes by providing less pre-formatted notes-content and requiring that students write a larger share of the notes on their own.
  • You can boost the effectiveness of guided notes (or indeed any note-taking strategy) by including additional incentives or follow-up activities to monitor student note-completion and study of notes.
    (Wright, 2001)

Where can you find more information about guided notes?

Research Articles

Hohn, R. L., Gallagher, T., & Byrne, M. (1990). Instructor-supplied
notes and higher-order thinking. Journal of Instructional
Psychology, 17(2), 71-74.
Lazarus, B. D. (1991). Guided notes, review, and achievement
of secondary students with learning disabilities in mainstream
content courses. Education and Treatment of Children,
14(2) 112-128.

Descriptive Articles

Boyle, J. R. (2001). Enhancing the note-taking skills of students
with mild disabilities. Intervention in School and Clinic,
36(4), 221-224.
Lazarus, B. D. (1988). Using guided notes to aid learning disabled
adolescents in secondary mainstream settings. The Pointer,
35(1), 32-35.
Lazarus, B. D. (1996). Flexible skeletons: Guided notes for
adolescents. Teaching Exceptional Children, 28(3),
Suritsky, S. K. & Hughes, C. A. (1991). Benefits of notetaking:
Implications for secondary and postsecondary students with
learning disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 14, 7-9.
Weishaar, M. K., & Boyle, J. R. (1999). Note-taking strategies
for students with disabilities. The Clearing House,
72(6), 392-395.


Intervention Central
A web page written by Jim Wright offers helpful information on guided notes such as how to implement guided notes and use them with diverse learners. A sample set of guided notes is available on this site.

Ohio State University Partnership Grant
This site provides an article by William L. Heward on using guided notes to improve the effectiveness of lectures.

Examples of Guided Notes
The following examples of guided notes were written by Dana, an 8th grade math teacher in a large suburban district. Dana uses guided notes for each math unit she teaches throughout the school year. She believes that guided notes are an effective instructional tool because they help students focus and interact with the information during a lesson. They also provide students with a study guide so that they may review lesson content before a test. Dana also feels that guided notes are an effective planning tool because they help her align curriculum with district and state standards.

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