Cornell note taking

We recommend students at both GCSE and A’level use the Cornell method of note taking when watching our videos.  They can do this either in a regular exercise book or using our template.  If students use an exercise book, they should use a ruler to divide the page up as follows:

Cornell note taking template
Cornell note taking template
Notes icon
Notes icon

The title of the video and the topic or SLR it relates to are written in the top section.  In the main “Notes” section, students write notes from the video.  If this is a GCSE video, they can pause the video when they see the notes icon and copy down what is on the screen into their notes.  This provides scaffolding so that students begin to learn how to take notes, and understand what is important to note down and what isn’t.  Too often teachers assume students will just know how to take notes without ever being formally taught how, and then wonder why the student has either attempted to copy everything, or written very little.  At A’level we remove this scaffolding to prepare them for university or the world of work where they will be be expected to do this for themselves.  However, they can take the principles from GCSE and apply them to the A’level video.  Perhaps rewinding slightly when the canvas changes and thinking about what was important in the previous few minutes.

Having recorded the notes, students should then review them.  This is where the challenge in the homework begins that Ofsted look for in outstanding practice.  Students should read their notes and turn each part into a question in the section on the left.  For example, the notes may say, “The value of the program counter is passed to the memory address register”.  The question then becomes, “which register is the value of the program counter passed to?”  Sometimes these questions are easy, and at times they are more difficult to write.  There may also be more than one valid question, and students will need to decide for themselves which are the most appropriate questions for revision.  This is a section you could mark if you wanted to mark their homework.  Encourage students to group knowledge so that a question relates to a small set of notes rather than a question for each line!  For example, a suitable question may be, “what are the differences between RISC and CISC architectures?”

Finally students should pull out all the key words from the notes and list them in the bottom section.  Ideally with a definition that they can gain from our keyword PowerPoints or revision cards.

If your students are following our flipped classroom approach, they create these notes ahead of the lesson so they can use them in the lesson with our workbooks and activities.  By taking this approach, not only do you not need to teach in the traditional sense from the front of the classroom, but more importantly, the students are becoming independent learners.  They have listened to the knowledge in the video, passed it through their brains to their hands to record it.  In lessons they read the knowledge from their book, pass it through their brains to their hands to complete the activities.  This double knowledge recall approach is far more effective than teaching it once from the front of the class.

We suggest that students start a new page in their books for every video.  This makes it easy to check if they have done the homework, easy to mark, and quick to evaluate the depth.  It will mean there is some white/empty space in their books, but it is better to have orderly, neat notes.


The advantages of a Cornell approach to note taking include:

  • Students will have an organised set of notes.
  • The quality of the notes will be much better and suitable for revision.
  • The information is in a format that suits both short and long-term memory.
  • A simple homework of recording information which is already effective, becomes more challenging which is what Ofsted want!
  • Preparing students for note taking at university.  (The Cornell method is named after Cornell University)

Download Word and PDF templates to use with your students.