Strategy Guide

Power Notes

6 - 12
Strategy Guide Series
Reading in the Content Areas

About this Strategy Guide

The strategy examined in this Strategy Guide teaches students an outlining technique to help them differentiate between main ideas and details in their reading and writing.

Research Basis

Power Notes help students differentiate between main ideas and details in a structured format.  Since main ideas and details are assigned numbers, students quickly learn that this organizational tool is a simple concept to grasp.  Main ideas are Power 1 ideas, and details and examples are either Power 2, 3, or 4 ideas.

The systematic approach of Power Notes visually displays the differences between main ideas and supportive details in outline form, and are an easy to follow activity for categorizing information.  This organizational tool can be used for reading, writing, and studying across all content areas.


Goodman, A.  (2005)   "The Middle School High Five: Strategies Can Triumph." Voices from the Middle, 13(2), 12-19.

Santa, C., Havens, L., and Macumber, E. (1996).  Creating Independence Through Student-Owned Strategies.  Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company: Dubuque, IA.

Strategy in Practice

  • Introduce the concept of powers by showing students a simple example that most will be familiar with.  Explain to students that Power Notes are simply another way of helping them organizing their thoughts; other notetaking devices or outlines are still acceptable, too.  A possible example is below:
Power 1. Sports

Power 2. Basketball

Power 3. Court

Power 3. Hoop

Power 3. Orange ball

Power 2. Football

Power 3. Field

Power 3. Endzone

Power 3. Brown ball

Power 2. Baseball

Power 3. Field/Diamond

Power 3. Bat

Power 3. White ball


  • Begin a class discussion about the assigned topic or text.  Explain to students that they will be learning a systematic way to organize their thoughts by assigning “powers” to different thoughts/ideas.
  • As you work through the example above as a class, allow students to provide ideas for the different powers and help explain to their peers why something belongs as a certain power and not another.
  • Point out how the powers relate to each other: power 3s offer details, examples, and elaboration of power 2s, power 2s give examples and details of power 1s, etc.  Students may begin to draw these conclusions and share them with their classmates, as well.
  • Next, model a short example Power Notes using the assigned topic or text so that students understand what is expected of them when working with their specific assignment.
  • Once you feel that students have a firm understanding of the system to use when writing Power Notes (based on things they've shared in class discussions), have individuals or groups begin their own Power Notes for the assigned text or topic using the provided Power Notes Printout.
  • Remind students to first start with Power 1s, then record examples by providing Power 2s, and finally to elaborate and expand by adding Power 3 and Power 4 details.  If some students find it easier to work backwards, allow them to experiment with their 'system' and share it with you.
  • Power Notes can continually be expanded upon as students find more details to support their powers and learn more about the topic.
  • Upon finishing their basic Power Notes, students can share and discuss their notes with a partner or their class, and they can be used for a review of the assigned text or topic.
  • Additionally, Power Notes can be used to introduce paragraphing by developing their outlines into words and phrases, then expanding their ideas into sentences, and finally, combining the sentences into a paragraph.

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