5 Strategies for Taking Better Notes for Students with ADHD

Students with ADHD often deal with a mix of attentional, organisational, and focus-related difficulties. This can make note taking during lectures pretty challenging. However, the right note taking strategies can encourage active listening and engagement in lectures. This can help students to understand and capture the most important information from classes. In this blog, we’ll share five note taking strategies for better notes alongside Jamworks’ assistive note taking features.


What is ADHD? 

ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) is a lifelong neurodevelopment condition that begins in childhood. The ADHD brain has impaired ‘executive functions’ – this is the brain’s ability to focus, plan, sustain attention and complete tasks. In particular, ADHD is characterised by persistent patterns of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness.

Students with ADHD might struggle to pay attention to detail, sustain their attention over long periods of time, and have trouble with organisation. Notably, there are three types of ADHD, some struggle more with impulsivity and hyperactivity (hyperactive-impulsive ADHD). Others have more difficulties with their focus (inattentive ADHD) and some have a mixture of these symptoms (primarily combined ADHD).


Common Difficulties for Students with ADHD 

For students with ADHD, inattention and distractibility make note taking during lectures difficult. The ADHD brain can struggle to pay attention long enough to take information in. During note taking, being able to process information at speed is important, however, inattention makes this challenging. In addition, students with ADHD often have to battle with a host of distractions. This could be nearby chatter, the sounds of typing, or their own thoughts and ideas. Between distractibility and inattention, note taking can feel like a constant mental battle of attention and focus. Students with ADHD can also struggle with organisation, which can make it difficult to know what information to take down, and how to organise it effectively.


5 Note Taking Strategies for Students with ADHD ft. Jamworks

open notebook on desk with lettering

Jamworks – Assistive Technology for Students with ADHD

Jamworks is an assistive note taking and lecture recording tool. Students can use Jamworks for online and in-person lectures, meetings and seminars. Jamworks is an assistive technology tool for students with learning difficulties, like ADHD. Below, we’ll break down how Jamworks’ assistive features can support students with ADHD to take notes effectively.


Structured Note Taking and Jamworks’ Highlights 

Following a pre-defined note taking structure can help students to keep information organised. Students with ADHD often benefit from structure but struggle to implement this in the moment. That’s why having a structure in place can help students to make notes on key points and leave gaps for when they get distracted or can’t pay attention. Students can implement structure using popular note taking methods like the Cornell method. This defines a way for students to divide up the page into different sections and capture information. 

Jamworks’ 1-button highlight feature is another easy and ideal way to impose structure during note taking. During lecture recordings, students can divide lecture content into topics or sub-topics using highlights. This feature provides a distraction-free way for students to begin note taking at the click of a button. For each highlight, students can type their own notes, which keeps everything organised and easy to access later on. 

If the student loses focus or forgets to start a highlight, Jamworks offers the trackback feature. This allows students to skip back in the recording and start a highlight from moments before. Structured note taking helps students to tackle issues of organising information in an easy-to-follow and effective way. Assistive technology like Jamworks makes this simple with features like Highlights and Trackback. 


Use a Note Taking Framework 

Structured note taking can help students to keep information organised. Yet, it can still be hard to choose what to write down or keep track of. Lectures are jam-packed with information including examples and extra context. Using a framework or set of rules can help students with ADHD know what to write down in their notes or listen out for. This can stop the ADHD brain from becoming overwhelmed with information. 

For example, a student might aim to take notes that a five-year-old could understand. This rule defines how much needs writing down and how complex the information should be. Other simple rules might be to write down three key points for each topic or write a note when the exam or assignment is mentioned. These anchor points encourage active listening and help students to process information in a structured way. 

Students can use a framework or set of rules in Jamworks too. This can define how students use highlights, the notes section, and flags. Flags are another 1-button note taking feature in Jamworks for pinpointing important information. This feature can be used to mark when the lecturer mentions an exam or assignment. For highlights, students could use this for new topics and examples, and reserve the notes section for personal thoughts or connections.


Take Visual Notes  

Students with ADHD might benefit from visual note taking methods, like sketch notes or mind maps. Visual note taking combines words with visual information to create an engaging and active note taking experience. This approach engages both sides of the brain, which can make it a little easier to keep or regain focus during lectures. Sketch Notes is a visual note taking method that is flexible and creative. Students can use a mixture of bold titles, annotations, doodles, and icons to represent information and ideas. 

Alternatively, students can use mind maps, Venn diagrams, or concept maps. This can help students to take minimal notes but still capture the big ideas. It provides a simple way to connect information together, understand the bigger picture, and possibly the finer details too. The best thing about these methods is they can be adapted to the student’s preferences, which is ideal as ADHD can be different for each student. 

Students with ADHD can use a combination of visual note taking and Jamworks to capture everything they need. In Jamworks, students can attach visual notes as PDFs in the note section of their highlights. This keeps everything organised and in one easy-to-access place. Students can prioritise listening during lectures by letting Jamworks record everything they need. This also allows students to capture what they want into their visual notes without stressing over details or missed information. 


Make Connections

For long-term retention and understanding, it can help to connect the newly learnt material with previous knowledge. For students with ADHD, this might come naturally, as thoughts and ideas come to mind while listening. This is called ‘free association’ where the mind forms connections between other things they have read, seen, or heard. Instead of fighting distractibility entirely, using these thoughts for note taking can help students to stay on track. Students can include these connections in their notes, whether those are visual, handwritten, or typed, which can slowly draw their attention back to the lecture content. This is also an incredibly beneficial way to remember things long term, which will help students with review and memorisation later. In Jamworks, students can use the notes box under their highlights to write down these connections. Or, later attach handwritten or visual notes to the relevant highlight.


Review Notes 

Finally, note taking is most effective when paired with regular review. This is important for extracting value from the notes but also, for exam revision and preparing for assignments. For students with ADHD, this is ideal for filling in gaps where they were distracted or unable to pay attention. Jamworks makes this process simple and easy using the power of artificial intelligence. Students can review their highlights as smart summaries, word-for-word transcripts, or audio clips. This makes it easy to review content in bite-sized chunks and avoid information overload. Jamworks also offers Flashcard quizzes – a way for students to test themselves using the smart summaries from their highlights. This can reduce the stress of creating extra revision resources, and allows students to prioritise review straight after lectures. 


Get Jamworks Free with DSA

Students with ADHD are entitled to free study support from the Disabled Student’s Allowance (DSA). You can learn about applying for DSA here. If you have ADHD it is likely that you’ll be offered note taking and revision software like Jamworks during your DSA assessment. If you are not offered Jamworks you can request it during your assessment and you should be provided with a free subscription for the duration of your studies.

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