Are note cards still a necessary step for kids’ projects?

My 9-year-old has been working hard on three school research projects due all within about two weeks of each other. For one step, he was supposed to take notes and then put them on note cards to organize the notes to write the paper.

And the whole time I’m think it’s called a computer. You can type in your notes and then cut and paste and reorganize them over and over again however your little heart pleases.

The kids are allowed to type. So instead of handwriting notes on the note cards based on his typed notes we printed the page and he cut and taped each “note” to the note cards.

So he has fulfilled the requirement but I don’t necessarily think he’s learned how to organize a paper through the note card method.

So what is happening at your school? Are they still organizing papers through note cards? Are they just letting kids “virtually” organize on the word processor? Should the note card step just be eliminated from the process kids are learning?

33 comments Add your comment


February 26th, 2013
12:34 pm

Not everyone has access to a computer.

Uh, just what is wrong with this mom....

February 26th, 2013
12:44 pm

…”we printed the page and he cut and taped each “note” to the note cards” – no wonder you are not sure if he learned how to organize the paper since you seemingly did the work for him…


February 26th, 2013
1:06 pm

He should follow the teacher’s instructions. Too many of our children have poor penmanship because the computer does all of the work for him. Writing things down is a great practice. If I were his parent, he would write the information (neatly!!) on the notecards as instructed.


February 26th, 2013
1:16 pm

Why not let the child decide how to do HIS project? He was given the teacher’s instructions, so now go do it….


February 26th, 2013
1:27 pm

@catlady, Because not everyone has access to a computer, the kids that do have access to one shouldn’t be allowed to use it?


February 26th, 2013
1:28 pm

@Sunny, why is good penmanship still important?


February 26th, 2013
1:38 pm

My daughter is in the 5th grade and we just finished a Science Fair Project where note cards had to be turned in as part of the project. The final project was done as a Power Point presentation. The Power Point slides had to be printed out and note cards attached and turned in to the teacher.


February 26th, 2013
1:38 pm

It is not about CAN a computer do it for them (of course it could) it is about teaching them to THINK for themselves.

Children learn visually/spacially very well. Think of when they stacked blocks as toddlers. Having the information on the note cards let them shuffle the deck and organize in way that really connects with their brains. Again TEACHING THEM TO THINK.

As parents we should be teaching kids to think. To many parents (even of “Adult children”–what an oxymoron!!!) do the thinking for their offspring.


February 26th, 2013
2:02 pm

@FCM, plagiarism is still against the rules. It’s not like the kids can just copy and paste their research. They still have to read what they’ve found and formulate it into a thought proving their thesis statement.

It’s still organization of material. I just think requiring them to write it down on 5 X 11 cards is a waste of time to turn around and type it out in a paper.


February 26th, 2013
2:06 pm

A note card is a note card is a note card, whether it is written by hand or scripted on a computer then printed. I think how the cards are used are more the issue than how they are produced.

Real Life

February 26th, 2013
2:18 pm

The topic here seems to be “How can I help my child do his/her homework in the easiest possible way?” Teach your child that shortcuts are always acceptable and you are setting your child up for problems when he/she encounters a situation where shortcuts are not accepted.

Education today seems to be about short cuts. Writing the material down on the note cards is a better teacher of organization that simply saving and manipulating things on a computer. And many people remember more from writing things down by hand. Following instructions is an integral part of education and life in general. Just because you can circumvent the instructions in some way does not make it right.

I still do a lot of work by writing by hand—even though I work on a computer. And remember that most people do not back up their computers to a portable hard drive or other source. Computers crash and your information is lost. I know we can all lose paper as well but we often can control that but not control a computer going haywire.

And finally, why are you doing your child’s homework? From what you wrote you are doing more than you should.


February 26th, 2013
2:30 pm

As Real Life said, I and a lot of others remember the things we write down. If I have something I have to do, I always jot a note down to remember and never have to reflect on my notes. It becomes memory at the point of writing it down for myself.


February 26th, 2013
3:21 pm

Students have to learn how to do the process correctly before they can modify it to what works best for them. Learning to separate infomation by topic and relevance to the subject is invaluable. The notecards allow them to gather, sort and use the information. They can number the notecards and indicate in their outlines what card info should be used in a particular paragraph (and yes, the outline is a key step). When they get to college and have to crank out papers quickly they will have the necessary skils.

Just sayin

February 26th, 2013
3:23 pm

I’m gonna have to agree with “Real Life” and “jmb” most people DO tend to memorize things better if they right it down, because you are thinking about what you are writing.The note cards help to better organize the paper because you can decide how to organize your thoughts before doing all the copying and cutting and pasting a million times. I don’t know how many times I have seen where someone copied and pasted, but forgot to delete what they didn’t want. Spell check doesn’t catch that. There are many published authors that while using computers for the bulk of their writing, still use hand written notes to get the process started.

Mother of 2

February 26th, 2013
3:28 pm

Both of my kids hated the use of note cards for school work, but they did them because that was part of the assignment. Some kids find them helpful, others find them a waste of time. I like the fact that the schools require all different types of projects and study guides. Eventually, the kids learn what works for them. Note cards are an inexpensive way to help a class organize material.

My older son hated the way he was taught to take notes – the method was required for all students and their notes were graded. He took his notes the required way, and had a separate notebook with notes that he preferred. He probably did well in school because he was taking notes twice. Win, win, in my opinion.


February 26th, 2013
3:44 pm

@ jarvis…I used lots of quotes in my papers, siting the source of the material. Even in college my note cards had the verbatim statement of the source material (and source sited on the card) so that I could easily see the actual quote when and determine if I wanted to use it or not with the sitation being done.

Notice in the above I pointed out siting the source material. My understanding is that plagerism would be if I claimed the material as mine when in fact it was anothers. Is that not the case?

How are the cards plagerism if he sites the source material?


February 26th, 2013
4:24 pm

@Jarvis: It’s not plagiarism to write down something verbatim. What IS plagiarism is passing off that materials as something that you have written. It’s a NOTE to yourself, a citation, a reference, a thought that is perhaps a part of the final product or not.

I personally hated note cards, but you know? I discovered that they did come in handy when my Girl Scouts started planning events. I made them write all the tasks that needed to be done down on note cards. They would then lay them out in order that they needed to be done, with about how long it would take, and realized that sometimes things needed to be rearranged to make the project flow better (flow chart, project management, all sorts of skills going on, here.) Then they would back up the project, so that if it was, for example, a workshop on April 1st, they would be able to say, “X has to be done by March 1st, Y has to be done by March 15th, etc.” It helped them organize, it helped them consider tasks that needed to be done, and it was all laid out on my dining room table where everyone could look at it and make changes or suggestions. One of the girls would type it up later to distribute, but the note cards were great for getting them to think about a project in an organized fashion. When they went off to college, I would have put their organizational skills up against most adults and they would have won, hands down.

As far as penmenship is concerned: A computer is a TOOL, just like a pen or a typewriter. Anyone should be able to communicate clearly in ANY medium.


February 26th, 2013
4:38 pm

Comedians have to use note cards or they’ll forget the bit. Write it down on note cards, kids and class clowns.


February 26th, 2013
5:23 pm

“And the whole time I’m think it’s called a computer.”

editing is important, kiddos.

also, *citing, FCM.


February 26th, 2013
6:12 pm

This column is an insult to mothers.

Tomorrow’s topic: Pencils or Pens?


February 26th, 2013
7:12 pm


February 26th, 2013
7:19 pm

FCM, I wasn’t saying note cards were plagarism.

I was saying in my opinion they were obsolete (unless in a public speaking forum or in a flash card type scenario). My point was that kids would learn the material writing the paper whether or not they created hand written cards. They still have to take the research, understand it and turn it into something of their own.

If decent handwriting was a necessity, doctors would have been out of business decades ago. Not everyone cares about thank you notes.


February 26th, 2013
7:46 pm

Note cards are needed to put the ideas/concept in the student’s own words. Using a computer to cut and paste works great for data collection, but is very dangerous when a student is to explain concepts/facts in his own words.

Plagiarism to any extent may be the cause for a failing grade in middle and high school. It is very easy for teachers to type phrases into an Internet search tool.


February 26th, 2013
8:20 pm

Handwriting notecards are fine…in the context of infinite time management. Mom mentioned 3 projects due within 2 weeks…for a fifth grader. Do kids have time to go outside and play anymore? Learn about nature? Watch the bees fly in and out of the flowers? I personally think mom did right by her child in saving a little time that could be spent on other important educational activities.


February 26th, 2013
8:50 pm

My daughter, in college, uses hand-written note cards for speech presentations. Totally valuable as she can reference easily what SHE has researched and is presenting in front of a live audience. I use a loose-leaf binder every day in my job. I have hundreds of pages of hand-written notes and refer back to them on a regular basis. I write down notes/comments of all conf calls/conversations. I’m later able to view my notes and respond accordingly. I learned this at an early age, in school. One thing I didn’t have was a parent in the middle of my homework/project assignments. I knew to request the notecards, poster board, and all other items required of projects well in advance. Then it was on me. Often also requested library visits to complete projects. I’m grateful now that I was on my own to produce my own work.


February 26th, 2013
9:22 pm

We used note cards- it was a great way to learn how to organize our thoughts and how to keep notes per idea we had. For example, we would have an outline and a card number (letter) for each idea or point. Then we would put them in order and write our papers. The teacher would check our cards and progress once a week and we’d be graded on what we had.


February 26th, 2013
9:53 pm

Question for Teachers on this blog. Some students are visual learners. They may need notecards to visualize and reinforce what they’ve been taught. What is the opposite of visual learners? How many styles of learning do you accomodate?


February 26th, 2013
10:21 pm

I agree with Angie. 9 is too young to have three research projects due at the same time. What is he in 3rd grade? 4th maybe. As a home schooler I am constantly amazed at the work these kids are expected to do. My 3rd grader is just now writing paragraphs (her public school friends were writing paragraphs in 1st grade). However, the expectations are very different. I expect a perfectly written paragraph. spelling errors all need to be corrected. Grammar needs to be correct, All punctuation has to be correct. None of this “we are just looking at content”. Content is more important as they get older and are more developmentally able to process the information they have learned. I know for a fact that I never wrote a research paper until 6th grade. I was a very good writer in high school and college. All this more, more more….write, write write earlier and earlier is obviously not creating better students. I say fill their minds with fun, interesting stuff in 1st thru 4th grade, make sure they are learning the ins and outs of writing sentences and then paragraphs. There is plenty of time for research in middle school.
@ Observer. I did all my projects myself too but, like I said, I don’t think I was ever asked to complete notecards or prepare a research paper in third grade. I would be helping my child with this because I would want to TEACH them how to do it correctly. I have a pretty bright 9 yr old but if just put her in front of a computer with note cards and said “you’re own your own”, she wouldn’t get much done.


February 27th, 2013
7:03 am

Auditory, Visual and Kinesthetic Learners. With my group we watch, listen and move.


February 27th, 2013
7:04 am

OR the correct order per the first part of my sentence is listen, watch and move…sorry.


February 27th, 2013
9:41 am

One should not overlook the fact that not ALL material is available on the Internet. Notecards for sources/facts found in other places are needed to organize and document information. Research projects teach the research process. Notecards should be a part of that process.


February 27th, 2013
10:11 am

My youngest, who in college part time, still uses note cards to study for upcoming tests.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

February 27th, 2013
10:21 am

New topic up — Can husbands from the South get away with calling other women sweetheart?