Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Why and How to Take Notes

Taking notes is a great way of helping you identify important concepts in class. Even if you have a great memory, creating a permanent record of what the teacher says is a way of taking charge of your own education.  The purposeof a lecture is to impart important information about something that is being studies in a class.  Content from a lecture has a way of showing up on a quiz or test or an in class assignment.  Typically, you will be  asked to draw from your  knowledge that was gained from the lecture in some fashion.  In order to draw from the lecture, it is best to have a written record of what was covered in a respective class because no one can remember everything a teacher says, and, quite honestly, not everything is critical for you to remember.  Some basic points to remember as you prepare to take notes are the following: 1.  Make sure you have done the assigned reading and that you understand the reading.  Notes are hard to take, let alone decipher, if you don't follow the reading material that the lecture will be based upon.
2.  Use the questions about the reading, given to you by the teacher or at the end of the section you read, to help you grasp the basic information in the reading.
3.  Be prepared to take notes when you enter class.  Have writing materials and paper with you. 
4.  Listen carefully to what the teacher says during the lecture.  This is, at times, difficult, as many people "space out."  Taking notes should help you stay engaged.
5.  Pay special attention to "signal" words.  These are words that help you identify something you need to write down.  Such words or phrases may include:  "as an example," "remember that,"  "the important idea here is," "a major development is,"  but there are a number of key phrases that are dependent on the subject area in which you are taking notes.  The main idea is to LISTEN to hints the teacher may give during the lecture that you need to jot something down. 
6.  Ask you teacher if you can record the lecture so you can go back at a later date and listen to the lecture at your leisure and take notes from that.  This is good because you listen to the lecture a second time and also take notes.
7.  Take you time.  Use a highlighter that makes "really" important information stand out for you.  Underline vocabulary terms.  Draw pictures when you can as these often help us "see" concepts we are expected to learn. Review your notes.  Date your notes, and put them in a format that is "user friendly."  You may find rewriting them helps or making flash cards is helpful.  You may discover that you are more inclined to remember and understand material if you type your notes up after a lecture.
8.  Ask questions!  Don't feel embarrassed or awkward about asking questions.  If you don't feel comfortable asking in front of others, jot down your question and get it to the teacher "on the side."  If you have a question, chances are high that another person has the same question.  ASK!

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