Listening to Lectures
Middle School Students usually don’t need to take notes. They might say their teachers don’t really lecture. Hopefully that is true. But, even if your teacher only speaks to the class for ten or fifteen minutes, students can treat this as a brief lecture. If you are in Middle School, your teacher probably won’t expect you to take notes but this is the time to start learning. You can take notes now without any pressure to get everything right. Then, when you are in high school, you will have a good headstart.
If you are in High School, you will be expected to take notes in many classes. Sometimes teachers won’t use the word lecture, but if they are talking to the class, if they are teaching you something, if they are explaining the material, your teachers expect you to understand and remember what they are saying. The best way to focus your attention (avoid daydreaming) is to take notes. The best way to understand the material and remember it is to take notes.
And a secret you teachers might not have told you. Many test questions are based on what teachers tell you in class. In order to study for a test, you need to go over the notes you took in class.
Listening to Lectures begins with careful preparation
The students in the picture are listening to a lecture in Biology Class. They are well prepared and eager to answer the teacher’s questions. When they don’t understand the material, they ask questions right away. Students who actively participate learn more and remember it longer.
1. Most lectures go along with your reading assignment. Reading the material before the lecture helps you understand the material better and you won’t need to write information that is already in your reading notes.
2. Just before the lecture, it helps to quickly review your notes from the previous class. Some students take notes and never look at them again. What a waste of time. You need to go over them several times and reviewing notes just before the next lecture helps you be better prepared.
3. You can also prepare yourself by getting plenty of sleep (so you don’t fall asleep during the lecture), eating healthy meals, drinking enough water, and getting regular exercise. All of these help your brain to be alert.
4. Have your notebook and pen ready. If you know the title or topic of the lecture, write that on the top of the page. Also write the class, the date, and number your pages.
5. Ask yourself what you already know on the topic, what questions you have, and what you think your teacher will consider most important,.
Listening to a lecture
1. Take notes: this is covered in the next page.
2. Watch the teacher. Keep eye contact. Watch the teacher’s gestures. When something is important, they might act more excited.
3. Listen to the teacher’s voice. Sometime the teacher slows down when finishing one main idea, and goes faster when moving to the next main idea.
4. Listen for clues to the main ideas. The teacher might say, “This is especially important.” She might say, “I want to stress that …” or “Be very clear about this…”
He might write a definition or diagram on the board.
She might ask a question: “Do you know why DNA is important.” He might ask, “Do you know the real causes of the Civil War?” Sometimes, they want students to try to answer the questions. Sometimes they use the question as an introduction to their lecture – such as “What are the four main causes of the Civil War?” By the end of class you should have written in your notebook the answer to this question. Be sure you know what they are. Your teacher thinks these four causes are important. They will be on a test.
5. Try to identify the main ideas. There are usually 3-5 main ideas in a lecture. There are also a lot of facts. Some students only notice the facts, but the main ideas are most important.
6. Try to understand how the lecture is organized. In math, the teacher might use numbered steps. You begin with a problem, make a diagram, select a formula, do the calculations, etc. using steps 1, 2, 3, 4, etc. Knowing the pattern will help you remember more do better on homework and on tests.
In history, topics might be presented in chronological order (going through time). Write down the dates and you might uses there to create a timeline.
In science classes, the lecture might be historical or it could follow the scientific method, starting with what you do or might observe, suggesting possible hypotheses, discussing various ways of testing your hypotheses, and then coming to a conclusion. Sometimes, this might be accompanied by a demonstration.
In a literature, the teacher might discuss the plot from beginning to end. It is more likely that she will list several main characters, describe their characteristics, and discuss the role they played in the story.
Most typical is the lecture that begins with an introduction (IMPORTANT) saying what the lecture is about, followed by 3-5 main points, with explanations, examples, and facts related to each main point.
After the Lecture
1. At the end of a lecture, teachers often ask, “Any questions?” If you know You might have a good question ready to ask.
2. You should mentally summarize the main ideas.
3. You should reflect on the lecture. What were the most important things you learned? What was most interesting? Was anything a surprise? Was there anything you would like to learn more about? Write down some questions. If the answers aren’t in your textbook, try the internet, try the library, or ask your teacher after class. Your teacher should be impressed that you were really interested in the subject. Sometimes students come up with questions that no one can answer. They might still be excellent questions.
The next page is Taking Notes