4 Ways to Boost Executive Function When Teaching Note-Taking


Taking notes helps students focus on important information, increases comprehension, and supports memory. Students with ADHD/Executive Function challenges have difficulty with staying focused, organization, prioritizing information, and managing time. As a result, class notes are often rushed, disorganized, and missing key information.

Here are four teaching strategies for supporting Executive Function in the classroom.


  1. Cognitive Flexibility

Be flexible and allow for different approaches to note-taking in your classroom. Helping students learn which approach works best for them is an important step in understanding personal learning styles.

  • Some students prefer pencil and paper because the physical act of writing jogs memory.
  • Other students work more efficiently on computers and are less likely to be bogged down by the details.


  1. Focus Attention

Tell students that you will use key phrases to help them focus on what is important. When students hear these key phrases, they’ll know to pay attention and write down the information that follows.

  • Share the key phrases you tend to use to note significance. For example, “There are three types of…,” “The most important part…,” or even “This will be on the test…”
  • Point out when you are using the key phrases to help students learn to listen and take action when they hear them.


  1. Organization

Before you begin a lecture, explain how you will be presenting the information. When students recognize the structure of a lecture, they can organize their notes to mirror that format.

  • If you are using the structure of a story or timeline, tell students the information is organized with a beginning, middle, and end.
  • If you are presenting information with a main topic and subtopics, tell students you are moving from the big idea to smaller details that support the idea.


  1. Time Management

Tell students that they do not need to write down everything you say or use full sentences. Using abbreviations and symbols saves time and helps students focus on recording what’s important.

  • Model this strategy by using (and defining) abbreviations for long words or concepts in your notes on the board.
  • Introduce students to symbols they can use instead of words. For example, “*” means something is important, “w/o” means without, and “<—>” means linked or connected.




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