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Develop Your Note Taking Technique

Oct 26, 2007
Students take notes. It's a well worn path to the learning experience. Despite the age of computers, the advancement of visual aids in class, and the plethora of books on any subject known to man, the greatest aid any student can have when it comes to writing up an assignment, or revising for a test, is a set of well written notes. Note taking can be done by anyone who listens to a teacher speaking about their subject, but there's a skill to effective note taking that requires some effort before and after the class as well as during it!

Before the Class
Prior to your class make sure that you find some time to read through the notes from the previous week. If you know in advance that you didn't really understand what was covered in that week's lesson you should do some additional work during the week so that you go into the new class with at least a basic understanding of what was previously learned. Most classes follow a structured timetable of content so that each lesson builds on the previous one -- failure to understand the previous one means that you probably will find the new one even less comprehensible!

Read through any assigned reading material. You will be expected to have done this before entering the class and so it is probably going to be relevant to the learning within that class. Make sure that you don't just read it, but that you understand it. Make a list of anything you don't understand so that you can raise these questions as the class progresses.

During the Class
Focus on what the teacher has to say. Don't get distracted by classmates, whatever's happening outside the window, or any other distraction that's around you. You need to be clear about what the teacher is saying so that you can quickly analyze which of the material you think is going to be important, and also identify anything that you don't quite understand. If the teacher makes special emphasis on any area of the lesson, such as writing it on a whiteboard, or having it on an overhead projector sheet, this should be copied into your notes.

Develop a type of shorthand that you completely understand. This will enable you to note take accurately, but fast. Keeping your sentence structure short will also help you write at speed.

Be sure to ask any of the questions you have either from this class or the one the week before. If you don't want to do this while the rest of the students are in the room, stay behind for a few minutes until the room clears, and then ask the teacher if you can clarify the points then or make a time when you can meet with her.

After the Class
Write up your notes into a legible format so that you can easily read them. Doing this while the information is fresh in your mind will help you to remember what the shorthand relates to as well as prompt you about anything you remember but didn't make a note of.

Test your understanding by asking yourself a couple of questions on the lesson material and see if you can answer them. If not, read through your notes again.
Developing note taking skills isn't just something that will help you to achieve better understanding at school; it'll also help you in taking instruction when you're in a workplace environment, so it's well worth taking the time to develop a good technique.
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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