Getting your students to take good notes can be quite a challenge.
I have noticed that giving a notebook grade greatly increases the number of students who are engaged in the note-taking process.
I give plenty of freedom for students to decide what works best for them, but I do require the following structure:
On the first or second day, take time to walk students through the setup. It can be a 3 subject notebook where they label the sections, or it can be a regular notebook that they separate. I like to hand out the firm, clear post-it tabs. They can stick these in the sections, then easily move them around as one section grows larger than the others. This prevents wasted pages when one section does not get filled up.
Be sure that students label the outside with their names and class periods, and the inside with the section names. I do not require dates.
Be clear from day one that these will be graded. Students need to know that you take the notes seriously.
It really does not matter if the notebook check comes two weeks before the end of the quarter, so I just choose the unit test that is closest to the end of the grading period. This spreads out the checking dates for different classes. I just have students leave the closed notebook right under the desk and I walk around and grab each one and scan through it while they quietly take their tests.
This way, students never have to part with their notebook when they may need it, and I never have to spend time outside of school with the grading process.
Read about teaching vocabulary using root words here.
If a section of notes is missing due to absence, I jot down what is needed and subtract two points. I allow that student to bring it to me any time before X date to show me that they worked with a friend to make up the notes for the lesson. (I know this is generous, but when students miss a day, they tend to get behind and make up the homework while neglecting the notes. I prefer that they go back and look over the lesson they missed and add these notes.) If they take the time to fix it up and come show me, I erase the old grade and add back the missing points.
As far as vocabulary, each student is generally either conscientious about doing it, or is missing almost all of it. I subtract points for this accordingly, and give lectures about how this affects the grade. We talk about shaping up for the next quarter!