Effective note taking and reading skills require discipline and practice. Students who work hard on note-taking skills are more likely to be prepared for class, comprehend course content and focus on the topic at hand. Students can employ several strategies to make note taking second nature. Being an active listener, developing a personal system and cultivating connections with your teachers help you become a well-rounded student.
Listening skills are paramount when learning to become a proficient note taker. If you are an active and engaged listener, it will be easier to capture the most critical information that is shared by your teacher. To become an active listener, you can, if possible, sit in the front of the class. This will allow you to focus on what the teacher is saying both verbally and non-verbally. Also, when you hear what your teacher is saying, relate it to something that hits home for you and imagine a picture of it in your head. As your critical thinking skills kick in, ask clarifying questions. Ask a friend to share a story with you and then repeat the story back to them. The more your practice your listening skills the better you will become.
Develop a System
When you are taking notes, it is important that you write down the main points of the lecture. Instead of writing down every word, craft an outline that represents the story that your teacher is sharing. Use your own system for expressing the information as you put it on paper. For example, try shortening words or using images to describe a concept. It is OK if you are the only one who can interpret your notes as long as they make sense to you. Create a personal short-hand system and apply it to a passage in one of your textbooks by rewriting the paragraph. Read and reread your paragraph until your system becomes second nature.
Know Your Teacher
Think of your teacher as a mystery you need to solve. Each teacher has a unique style, and if you focus on both verbal and non-verbal cues, you will start to pick up on important points. For example, does your teacher write something on the board when it is going to be included in a test? Your teacher might even phrase information in the exact way it will be worded on a quiz. Does your teacher change the pace of the lecture or increase the volume of her voice when a piece of information is critical? Create a profile of each of your teachers and include the cues that relate to identifying important lecture points. This exercise will help prepare you as you take notes in class.
Review and Revise
One of the most important things you can do after a class is to review and revise your notes. Rereading your notes will help you remember the information and prepare for tests or assignments. As you read your notes, consider adding information you didn’t originally include. Sometimes, when you are frantically trying to write down everything that is said in a lecture, it is easy to leave out some information. Rewrite your notes so that they are organized and make sense to you.
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