In This Issue

With thousands upon thousands of books out there, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to decide what to read next. Fiction? Some short stories? A memoir? The complete run of Wonder Woman? Ahh! Luckily, Thinking Organized is here to help. Here's what's on our reading list this month; check them out, and let us know what you plan on reading next!
Jennifer: I recently read All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely after one of my students was assigned the novel for summer reading. This book focuses on the topics of racism and police brutality, and it became the most powerful book I read all summer. The alternating perspectives of Rashad and Quinn are explored as they navigate the consequences of a violent event that divides their community.
Kristin: Right now, I'm reading David Quammen's new book The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life. Quammen is one of my favorite science writers, and I've been waiting months for this book to come out. It looks at the development of the concept of the tree of life and the changes it's undergone thanks to breakthroughs in science. This book gives us a comprehensive look at the scientists responsible for altering our understanding of evolution, as well as what impacts this understanding has on our lives.
Mallory: I'm reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. I am absolutely loving this book. It explores the biology and history of humankind, from the Stone Age to the 21st Century. While the content is dense and mystifying, Harari writes with a clear, engaging style. I often find myself thinking about the content hours or days later. I chose to read Sapiens because I am fascinated by the human mind and human behavior. There is even a whole chapter dedicated to the evolution of language, so the nerdy-SLP side of me loved that.
Michael: I'm reading The Mountains of California, by John Muir. It's a work I'm reading in preparation for my doctoral exams on nineteenth-century American literature. In it, Muir tells about his travels throughout the Sierra Nevada mountains. He explores the land and its history, as well as the wildlife and plants he finds there, and does so in lively prose that does a great job of communicating his own enthusiasm for the natural world.
Tara:  I'm reading Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler. It is a social psychology book that explores the way society makes various choices and provides suggestions for helping people make the best possible choices for themselves. I have always been drawn to these types of books, starting with Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's Freakonomics and Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. I am fascinated by people's thought process and the various influences that affect them. As someone who spends a lot of time with teenagers, I am always looking for ways to help my students make the best choices for themselves and their future.

Focused, Engaged, and Attentive: Note-taking at School

For students with executive dysfunction, taking notes in class often feels like a burdensome chore. Some students struggle with listening and taking notes at the same time. 

For others, they believe that they can remember everything that their teachers say, but when it comes time to take a test, they find it challenging to recall information they learned in class. 

Note-taking is a crucial element of executive functioning that strengthens a child's ability to sustain attention to a task and utilize her working memory. It also helps children develop their ability to identify main ideas from supporting details and recognize the connection between concepts.


Whether your child decides to take notes on the computer or by hand, it's crucial that she use the method that best suits her. There are several types of note-taking formats that your child can use, and she is always welcome to combine them. 

Here are three of the most common types of note-taking formats:
  • Cornell Notes. The Cornell Notetaking System is a classic approach to recording information in a structured, easy-to-use way. Fold a piece of paper in half (or create columns on a Word/Google Doc), and record key words on the left and fuller descriptions on the right. At the bottom of the page, save a space for a summary, where you sum up the main ideas of the day's lecture. This method can be useful for auditory and visual learners, as they can quickly organize the information they hear and record it in a visually appealing manner.  
  • Web. Web formats are great for visual learners, as they're all about shapes and demonstrating the connections between ideas. Using circles, boxes, or another fun shape, the web format requires you to separate out main ideas from supporting details and then draw lines between them. You can also color-code these notes to further accentuate the connections between concepts. There are several websites that will allow you to make a digital web if you choose to take notes on the computer.
  • Diagram. The diagram method is a combination of the outline and web formats, where you can structure information by topic and subtopics while also using arrows and colors to make connections. This is a great method to use when studying for a test and you want to rewrite your notes to better remember the information. 


Many children don't understand the necessity of note-taking, seeing it as an extra step or believing that their memory will suffice. While your child will indeed recall information from class that she found interesting, it's likely difficult for her to retain everything her teachers say. 

If your child is skeptical of note-taking, try using these strategies to help get her on board:
  • Explain its importance. Explain to your child that note-taking is a skill that she can use in all parts of life, such as taking notes at work, making a list of items needed for a camping trip, and more. Tailor this explanation to your child's interests; if she likes comic books, for example, explain how critics take notes while reading so they can comment on themes or character development.
  • Take notes yourself. Modeling is one of the best ways to show the importance of a skill. Show your child how you take notes in your daily life, whether it's a grocery list or notes from a work meeting. Children imitate the adult figures in their lives, so setting an example is crucial.
  •  Set goals together. Using modeling as your guide, set goals with your child for what types of notes the two of you will take over the course of the week. Set reasonable goals; for the first week, perhaps agree that your child will take notes only in her English class and you will take notes during work meetings. The following week, increase the amount of notes the two of you will take. Be sure to praise her for her efforts, and eventually, she will become comfortable taking notes in all of her classes.
  • Practice at home. In addition to modeling and setting goals with your child, it's also crucial that she practice taking notes at home. She can make lists of tasks that need to be completed, such as cleaning her room or packing her schoolbag, so that she learns how to consistently record important information. You can also set a task for the two of you to complete separately, such as making a grocery list or an after-school checklist, and see where the two of you differ in your lists; discuss the similarities and differences so that your child learns how to justify including or excluding certain pieces of information from her notes.


It can be difficult to separate the forest from the trees, so even if your child has determined to take notes, she now needs to know what exactly she should write down. 

While this list isn't comprehensive, here are some key items that she should be on the lookout for:

  • Fiction texts: characters, character traits, character relationships, setting, plot movements, themes
  • Nonfiction texts: dates, names, numbers, locations, definitions, examples, sequence words (e.g., first, second, then, finally), cause and effect words (e.g., as a result, because, since, therefore), transition words (e.g., additionally, however)
  • Teacher cues: when he raises his voice, when he speaks more slowly, when he repeats information, when he writes on the board


Taking notes in class enables children to remain focused, as they will be on the alert for material that they should write down. Learning how to parse the forest from the trees is a skill children will use for the rest of their lives, and it's important they begin working on this at a young age. 

So the next time your child goes to class, remind her to Think Organized and take notes!