The Art of Note-Taking

The Art of Note-Taking

Knowing how to take proper notes is not only a useful skill for high school, but also for any post-secondary education, such as college. The older you get, the less teachers will start to worry about what sort of information you are actually absorbing inside and outside of class. This is why a student must

Knowing how to take proper notes is not only a useful skill for high school, but also for any post-secondary education, such as college. The older you get, the less teachers will start to worry about what sort of information you are actually absorbing inside and outside of class. This is why a student must learn to build his/her ability to decipher the objective of each class, and know what sort of information he/she needs to pick up from both the teacher and the textbook in order to be successful, not only on the tests and quizzes, but in the class in general.

The first step to taking good notes is knowing what the objective of the class is. Each class will be taught differently depending on the style of the teacher. Some teachers would prefer to have students retain information from their lectures, and have the textbooks be used to do “extra work” like worksheets. Other teachers prefer to leave the student relying on just the textbook without lecturing much in class, but rather requiring students to take their own notes and fill out a few packets and worksheets here and there. A student might also get the more common teacher who happens to do both. Either way, it is essential to know what sort of information will really matter with each lesson taught.

There are a few ways to figure this out. One way would be to check the syllabus. It’s required every year that a teacher hands out a syllabus to the students, so they will know what to expect in the class. By reading through the learning objectives on there, a student can get a good idea of what they need to learn and what can be considered unnecessary information. Another way is by asking the teacher. Don’t be afraid to do this as teachers are meant to be there to help you be more successful in the class. So asking them about lesson objectives and other similar topics would be a good idea. Lastly, a student can ask other students who have taken the class previously. This option might be particularly beneficial as friends tend to be more honest and blunt about classroom and teacher experiences, so a student will definitely know what to expect.

After that is established, a student can now proceed to put together his/her notes. Many teachers will utilize PowerPoint presentations as an important feat while lecturing in class. But a student needs to be careful because, often, not all the information that a student needs to know will be on there. While at the same time, there might be extra information on the presentation that a student will not need to know. In this case, it will be important for the student to multitask and while copying down what’s on the slide, he/she must also listen to what the teacher is saying and note that as well, while eliminating the stuff that isn’t important so that notes won’t be too cluttered and messy with too much information. Ms. McMullen, a student teacher at LNE, mentioned, “it’s really good to practice [note taking] in high school, because in college, notes are not given to you in a structured way, and if you don’t get something down in notes, you may never hear it again.” This can be especially stressful if the piece of information happens to be necessary to answer a test or homework question.

When writing notes, it’s best to use different colors. Not only will the enticingly colorful notes make it a lot more interesting to study, it will also help out a lot with the organization. A student could use a color scheme for each chapter or section to make it easier to see where one section starts and another ends. Having multiple writing utensils will also be beneficial. For example, you could use a pen, a highlighter, and a pencil for maximum organization. For a class that has a lot of definitions or categorizations such as a language, history, or science class, this will be especially beneficial. A student can write the word or category in pen, the definition and any other information in pencil, and then they can go back and highlight any important phrases in the extra information they have written. This way when a student goes back to review his/her notes for an assessment, his/her eyes will automatically be drawn to the topic and the important information that comes with it.

Spacing and drawings/diagrams may also come in handy when it comes to note taking. Having space between topics or main ideas will help the student differentiate between the notes and will also make it easier to read through the notes so not all the information is cluttered in one area. Little doodles and small representations may also be very useful for more visual or artistic learners as they can start to associate certain drawings with certain ideas. For example, drawing the British flag vs the American flag when discussing the Revolutionary War in a history class, or drawing out certain elements and their properties for chemistry. Some classes may also ask students to compare and contrast certain ideas, like the goals of European settlers coming to the U.S. in U.S History or the difference between abiotic factors and biotic factors in biology, so creating charts and diagrams, such as a Venn Diagram or a T-chart, may help to create a clearer visual for students to see those similarities and differences.

Taking notes can be difficult. It can also be extremely boring and confusing to some, I will admit. But Mr. Cornwell, a social studies teacher at LNE, says notes “help you organize information in a way that makes sense to you.” Once a student gets the hang of how to do it, it can be a very beneficial skill to have. Because then, a student can use those skills in almost every single learning or classroom setting they are put in. Not every class will require a student to take notes as excessively as others, but if a student knows how note-taking works, then they will be able to determine their own successful methods of doing so based on the class they have. Successful notes equals a successful student.



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