How to Take Cornell Notes for Middle School Science

We recently received a question from one of our viewers, Tracie Parks, about our Cornell Notes video:

Cornell notes question


Tracie found our video about how to take notes helpful, especially because it shows HOW someone would take notes during a lecture, using a specific lecture!  This video features one of our videos about the History of the Atom as an example.

We’re so glad to hear that Tracie is sharing our Study Tips Series with her 6th grader! That’s really the perfect time to foster those skills.  It takes years to be a Great Student, and Middle School is when most kids start to be challenged to do more in school. They start to take notes in class, read books for information that will be tested on, and write papers.  These are the kinds of skills we want to help people with with our Study Tips.

Tracie was hoping we had an example that was a little more accessible to her middle schooler.  We do have a series of science videos that are perfect for middle-schoolers.  This series is all about those questions that pop up but you’re not sure of the answer – Why is the sky blue? Why is the ocean salty?  Here’s a video about Why Leaves Change Colour in the Autumn:


Now let’s show you how we would take notes for this video.  First, we’d prepare our paper (or buy paper already prepared for Cornell Notes), drawing lines for a big Notes section, a smaller Cues section on the left, and a Summary section on the bottom:


Then when we start our lecture, we’d take quick notes on the major points, making sure to write down key terms like the names of the pigments. After the lecture, we’d check on the spelling of these terms to make sure they are correct in our notes.


Notice there’s a lot of space between the different sections. That way, when we review our notes later, there’s room to add anything we missed.  The little headings in the Cues section helps organize the different ideas.


Finally, after the lecture is over, we’ll re-read our notes (maybe check them with a friend or with the textbook), and then we’ll write a brief Summary.



Tracie, have your 6th grader watch this video series and take notes, as practice. Remember you don’t have to write down every word!  Just the key ideas. Use abbreviations when you can. 

One BIG advantage of watching videos is that you can pause, rewind, or even watch the whole thing over again if you didn’t understand it the first time. And you can post questions in the comments!

Thanks so much for sending in your question. We’re absolutely thrilled to think we are helping someone on the beginning of their journey to be a GREAT Student!! 



We recommend:

Cornell Notes style filler paper on Amazon:

Cornell Notes spiral notebook:

Tomato Timer (use this for the Pomodoro Technique):

The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin (Chess Prodigy):

Amazon Used Textbooks – Save up to 90%

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This is why we can’t have nice things, Part II: Popular Science turns off comments

I’ve written before about the problems we have with online comments on our YouTube channel (and the other high-quality channels we import into  We have chosen to moderate comments, swooping in and deleting all the “you’re so hot!” and “why is a girl teaching math, drrrr” posts we get on our videos.  I know that personally, as a viewer, whenever I read a comment like that, it stops me in my tracks and I am left with a sick feeling.  I usually leave the page immediately.

We simply don’t want that experience for our viewers.  I don’t want that for our actors and content creators, either.  It shows incredible disrespect for all the time and effort that goes into making these videos.  Everyone who makes videos for Socratica is proud of the work that they do – and it just isn’t right that some bozo has defaced their work with mean-spirited comments or misogynistic drivel or ignorant ranting.  We want the people who work with us to be able to proudly share what they do with their friends and family without fear of a troll’s nasty comments embarrassing them.

It does feel strange to be targeted by these cowards.  I know, of course, we can’t take it personally.  This is a problem for everyone who puts content online.  Today, Suzanne LaBarre announced in Popular that they are turning off comments on their website. She writes

Cars Without Wheels, July 1959

Cars Without Wheels, July 1959 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It wasn’t a decision we made lightly. As the news arm of a 141-year-old science and technology magazine, we are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as we are to spreading the word of science far and wide. The problem is when trolls and spambots overwhelm the former,diminishing our ability to do the latter.

I have to admit, I was surprised to find that even a publication like Popular Science has found this problem overwhelming.  I would have expected the nature of their publication to attract a “better” class of commenters – people interested in better living through science and technology implied to me better living in general, including being more civil.  Boy, I guess I was wrong.  There are meanies everywhere.

Ship on Stilts Rides Above Waves, January 1936...

Ship on Stilts Rides Above Waves, January 1936, by Edgar Franklin Wittmack (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LaBarre brought up another important point, citing a study on the effects of reading insulting comments on comprehension and opinion of scientific articles from Dominique Brossard and Dietram A. Scheufele, which suggests that comments are more than merely distracting. As they summarized in a New York Times editorial:

Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself.
In the civil group, those who initially did or did not support the technology — whom we identified with preliminary survey questions — continued to feel the same way after reading the comments. Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with the technology.
Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they’d previously thought.

It seems that the trolls do have power – if we let them stay on the page.  Do we have to go the way of Popular Science and do away with comments altogether to take the power back from the petty cowardly trolls?   We do want our viewers to be able to comment and discuss their interests –  to tell us if they found something confusing, and to let us know what topics they would like to learn about next.  Until Google/YouTube gives us the tools to properly filter comments, we will continue doing it the old-fashioned way – taking out the trash one comment at a time.