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How to Develop Note-Taking Skills ... and Become an Effective Listener In the Process

Aug 17, 2007
Good note-taking accomplishes several objectives. First of all, it helps you study by helping you to remember what happened in class. But it also helps you to listen better and to focus more effectively. In addition, it helps you to organize the material and comprehend the message.

There are several different ways to take notes. We all must come up with our own techniques, our own quick way to write notes down while listening to someone talk and our own styles. But all the studies on note-taking agree that you should:

1. Use separate notebooks for each course.
2. Put your contact information in each notebook in case they get misplaced.
3. Make sure you write down the dates of each lecture to avoid possible confusion later.
4. Put any of your own questions and/or notes in the margin, or somehow set apart so that they don't get confused with the teacher's lecture notes.
5. Go over your notes soon after class to help them sink in more and to also complete your ideas.
6. Recopy notes on complicated material or that which you don't understand. It will help you strengthen and clarify the material.

A person can think about 4 times faster than a teacher can speak. Effective listening requires you to use energy and in order to compensate for the rate of presentation; you are going to have to conscientiously listen. Note-taking is one way to enhance listening because you are using a systematic approach to the taking and reviewing of your notes and this can add very much to your understanding and remembering the content of what the teacher has said in class.

BEFORE CLASS:
1. Go in knowing you will be listening.
2. Review your notes from the previous class while waiting for the next one to begin.
3. Read the new reading assignment before the next class to acquaint yourself with main ideas and any new terms.
4. Do what you can to stay alert. Fatigue, hunger, time of day, where you sit in the classroom all may affect how attentive you will be. The front of the room is better for most people and you will be able to hear more clearly with fewer distractions.
5. Choose notebooks that will help your systematic note-taking: Separate notebooks with full-sized pages are recommended for each course.
6. Stay attentive and listen.

DURING CLASS:
1. Listen for the information in the lecture.
2. Try to avoid distractions or boredom.
3. Be consistent in your note-taking and the manner is which you take them.
4. Pay attention to the teacher for verbal, vocal, postural, and visual clues as to what's important.
5. Label the important points and organizational clues: main points, examples.
6. If possible, put your notes from the lecture into your own words - but if you can't, don't let it worry you so much that you become distracted.
7. Always ask questions if you don't understand something.
8. Instead of closing your notebook early and getting ready to leave, listen carefully to information given toward the end of class; this might be the time the professor gives you clues as to test questions, etc.

AFTER CLASS:
1. Clear up any questions raised by the lecture by asking either the teacher or other classmates.
2. Fill in any missing points or misunderstood terms from text or other sources.
3. Edit your notes, labeling main points, adding recall clues and questions to be answered. Key points in the notes can be highlighted with different colors of ink or markers.
4. Make sure that your own ideas and reflections are kept separate from those of the teacher.

PERIODICALLY THROUGHOUT THE SEMESTER OR QUARTER:
1. Review your notes: glance at your recall clues and see how much you can remember before re-reading the notes.
2. Look for the emergence of themes, main concepts, methods of presentation over the course of several lectures.
3. Make up and answer possible test questions.
Follow these suggestions consistently and you will become a great note-taker and should do better in your classes because of this.
About the Author
Jane Saeman runs an In-Home Tutoring service called Aim High Tutors. Find out about how to help your student reach their full potential at http://www.aimhightutors.com/blog
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