Notes help you learn when you are in class, doing research, or studying. Because it is virtually impossible to take notes on everything you hear or read, the act of note taking encourages you to decide what is worth remembering, and it involves you in the learning process in many important ways:
Your notes provide material that helps you study and prepare for tests.
- When you take notes, you listen better and become more involved in class.
- Notes help you think critically and organize ideas.
- The information you learn in class may not appear in any text; you will have no way to study it without writing it down.
- If it is difficult for you to process information while in class, having notes to read can help you process and learn the information.
- Note taking is a skill that you will use on the job, in community activities, and in your personal life.
Good note taking demands good listening. The listening skills discussed earlier in this chapter are what allow you to hear what you will be evaluating and writing down. Listening and note taking depend on one another.
Recording Information in Class
Your notes have two purposes: first, they should reflect what you heard in class; second, they should be a resource for studying, writing, or comparing with your text material. If lectures include material that is not in your text or if your instructor talks about specific test questions, your class notes become even more important as a study tool.
Preparing to Take Class Notes
Taking good class notes depends on good preparation.
Preview your reading material. Survey the text (or any other assigned reading material) to become familiar with the topic and any new concepts that it introduces. Visual familiarity helps note taking during lectures.
Gather your supplies. Use separate pieces of 8-1/2 x 11 inch paper for each class. If you use a three-ring binder, punch holes in handouts and insert them immediately following your notes for that day. Make sure your pencils are sharp and your pens aren’t about to run out.
Remember—location, location, location. Find a comfortable seat where you can easily see and hear—sitting near the front, where you minimize distraction and maximize access to the lecture or discussion, might be your best bet. Be ready to write as soon as the instructor begins speaking.
Choose the best note-taking system. Select a system that is most appropriate for the situation. Later in the chapter, you will learn about different note-taking systems. Take the following factors into account when choosing one to use in any class:
The instructor’s style (you’ll be able to determine this style after a few classes). Whereas one instructor may deliver organized lectures at a normal speaking rate, another may jump from topic to topic or talk very quickly.
- The course material. After experimenting for a few class meetings, you may decide that an informal outline works best for your philosophy course, but that a think link works for your sociology course.
- Your learning style. Choose strategies that make the most of your strong points and help boost weaker areas. A visual–spatial learner might prefer think links or the Cornell system, for example, while a Thinker type might stick to outlines; an interpersonal learner might use the Cornell system and fill in the cue column in a study group setting.
Gather support. For each class, set up a support system with two students. That way, when you are absent, you can get the notes you missed from one or the other.
What to Do During Class
Because no one has time to write down everything he or she hears, the following strategies will help you choose and record what you feel is important in a format that you can read and understand later. This is not a list of “musts.” Rather, it is a list of ideas to try as you work to find the note-taking strategies that work best for you. Experiment until you feel that you have found a successful combination.
Remember that the first step in note taking is to listen actively; you can’t write down something that you don’t hear. Use the listening strategies you read earlier in the chapter to make sure you are prepared to take in the information that comes your way.
Date and identify each page. When you take several pages of notes during a lecture, add an identifying letter or number to the date on each page; for example, 11/27 A, 11/27 B, or 11/27—1 of 3, 11/27—2 of 3. This helps you keep track of the order of your pages. Add the specific topic of the lecture at the top of the page. For example: 11/27— U.S. Immigration Policy After World War II.
- If your instructor jumps from topic to topic during class, try starting a new page for each new topic.
- Ask yourself critical-thinking questions: Do I need this information? Is the information important or just a digression? Is the information fact or opinion? If it is opinion, is it worth remembering?
- Record whatever an instructor emphasizes—key terms, definitions, ideas, and examples.
- Continue to take notes during class discussions and question-and-answer periods. What your fellow students ask about may help you as well.
- Leave one or more blank spaces between points. This white space helps you review your notes because information appears in self-contained sections.
- Draw pictures and diagrams that help illustrate ideas.
- Indicate material that is especially important with a star, with underlining, with a highlighting marker, or by writing words in capital letters.
- If you don’t understand something, leave space and place a question mark in the margin. Then, take advantage of your resources—ask the instructor to explain it after class, discuss it with a classmate, or consult your textbook—and fill in the blank when the idea is clear.
- Take notes until the instructor stops speaking. If you stop writing a few minutes before the class is over, you might miss critical information.
- Make your notes as legible and organized as possible—you can’t learn from notes that you can’t read or understand. But don’t be too fussy; you can always rewrite and improve your notes.
- Consider that your notes are part, but not all, of what you need to learn. Using your text to add to your notes after class makes a superior, “deeper and wider” set of information to study.
Multiple Intelligence Strategies for Note Taking Exercises
Multiple Intelligence Strategies for Test Preparation Exercises
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