high school student taking notes
Inside the Classroom

Enhancing Instruction with Guided Notes

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I was recently faced with a common workplace challenge: I needed to deliver a presentation to coworkers packed with lots of information in a short amount of time. My primary concern was not how to get through all the content—after all, I know how to synthesize (and talk fast). Rather, I thought about how the participants in the session would respond to getting bombarded with all of that information at once. How could I help this group quickly learn what I needed them to know without overloading them?

This challenge reminded me of my time in the classroom, when I created guided notes to help my special education students process the concepts presented in my lessons. Guided notes are a note-taking tool that presents an outline of the content in a lesson and provides spaces to add important information. Simple guided notes may be in a Cloze format with key words left blank, and more complex notes might include a sequence of instructional notes paired with spaces for practice activities. The use of guided notes has many key benefits for students.

The Benefits of Enhancing Instruction with Guided Notes

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An example of guided notes included in courses from Edgenuity.

1) Help in Identifying Key Ideas

Students often struggle to determine the most important concepts in a lesson, and may spend time taking notes on everything. This can result in information overload as valuable energy is spent trying to process information that isn’t as important. Guided notes can help by providing students with an outline of the most important details. And because most information is provided in the guided notes, students can focus their energy on building a solid understanding rather than trying to write down everything.

2) Increased Engagement

There is plenty of evidence to show that information is more likely to be absorbed when the listener is actively engaged in some way. Note-taking in any form can help by giving students something tactile to be engaged in during instruction. Guided notes are particularly helpful because they allow students to leave a lesson with robust notes of the key concepts without overburdening their focus on the note-taking process.

3) Higher Retention of Important Information

Well-crafted guided notes will purposefully leave important ideas blank with the expectation that the student listens carefully during a lesson to fill in these blanks. This keeps the student actively listening for those key ideas, and then encourages them to write those ideas down. The physical act of writing down keywords and phrases increases the likelihood that the idea will be retained, and it engages multiple modalities in their interactions with key concepts. Retaining the most important information is ultimately the goal of guided notes.


For my presentation, I decided to create guided notes that outlined my key points. Even though I was presenting to a group of adult coworkers, in the end, the guided notes achieved the same purpose: helping this group to process a lot of information and leave with a solid understanding of the most important ideas. Whether you’re a teacher in the classroom seeking to support students in note-taking, or in another environment presenting information to anyone, I encourage you to think about how enhancing instruction with guided notes could help increase engagement and retention of learning.

Edgenuity® is committed to supporting students, and includes guided notes in select courses. Learn more about how enhancing instruction with guided notes helps students using Edgenuity, and download samples of our guided notes here.

About the Author

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Aaron Griffith-VanderYacht

A native of Bellingham, Washington, Aaron Griffith-VanderYacht began his career as a special education teacher in St. Louis, Missouri, and Brooklyn, New York, and is a Teach For America alumnus. Always seeking to integrate technology into the classroom, it was a natural progression to move into the world of e-learning where he has gained experience as an instructional designer, professional development consultant, and product specialist. He believes that online and blended learning can be key tools in providing an excellent education for all students.