Taking Notes in Class or Lectures

Some of this information is similar to suggestions for listening to a lecture.

Before the lecture

1. You will find it easier to understand the material and easier to take notes if you read the assignment first.

2. When you get to class, take time to review notes from the previous lecture. Think about ways to improve your note-taking.

3. Have your notebook open to the correct page. If you know the topic or title of the lecture, write it at the top of the page.  Write the class, the date, and other important information (chapter?) .  Many students prefer to use only one side of their paper. If using loose-leaf paper, number your pages.

4. Think about what you already know on the topic, what questions you have, and what you think your teacher will expect you to know.

During the Lecture

1. Watch the teacher and listen especially carefully to the first things she says. While other students are getting notebooks out of book bags, your teacher may be giving information about the next test or about other assignments.  Take good notes here.

2. The teacher usually begins a lecture with an INTRODUCTION. This should tell you what they plan to talk about. It will often describe the organization. Today we will cover 7 ways that our oceans are important.  Now you know to look for 7 main ideas. Or the teacher might say, today we are going to compare three kinds of reptiles.  You might want to use a compare and contrast chart for this lecture.

3. Watch for the end of the introduction and the first main idea. You should learn to use the teacher’s words, tone or voice, and gestures to help you recognize when the teacher is moving to another main idea. They will often say things like, “Next,” or “Secondly,” or “Another thing…  If you are lucky, your teacher will list the main ideas on the board as he speaks.  Copy them down.

4. It is often helpful to use a rough outline for taking notes.  List the main ideas a little to the left. You might number them and underline them to show these are the main ideas. Then, indenting an inch or so list explanations, definitions, examples, related facts, why it is important, etc.

5. Don’t try to write everything. A lot of what your teacher says is not important. Students that try to write everything get lost because they are finishing the last sentence and miss this one. They end up feeling lost. Most students start by writing too much, so challenge yourself to write a little less each day – sticking to the main ideas and most important details.

6. One way to cut back on your writing is to use phrases instead of complete sentences  EXCEPT when the teacher write a statement or definition on the board. Copy that exactly. It will be on your test. Some teachers slow down and give a definition slowly so you can copy it word for word. Copy it and learn it.

7. Another way to cut back on your writing is when you read the assignment and made good reading notes. When the teacher mentions something you already have in reading notes there’s no need to write it again. Some students make a brief note so they can underline the information in reading notes. If  it was in the book and in the lecture, you know it is important.

8. As you take notes, if you have any questions, something that you didn’t understand, mark it with a  ?  Some teachers welcome questions during the lecture. Raise your hand and ask your question. Other students will be glad you asked. Other teachers ask for questions at the end of the lecture. You can spot your ? and be ready with your question.

9. Never make the mistake of putting away your notebook before the teacher stops talking – even if the bell has rung.  A teacher sometime doesn’t get to the last main point until now. They might even give you advice such as “Material from this lecture will be on tomorrow’s test.”  Don’t miss it.

After the Lecture

1. Mentally review the material in the lecture. Did you miss any main points? If so compare notes with a classmate.

2. Look back over your notes. Do you remember important information that you didn’t get on paper? Add it now.  Are parts of your notes hard to read, rewrite it now while you remember what it says.

3. Reflect. Did the lecture answer all your questions. Do you have new questions now, questions that seem really interesting. If answers are not in the textbook, check the Internet, the library, or ask the teacher.  When you start with questions you are interested in, you will remember more, both about those answers plus related material.

4. Sometime in the next several hours, take time to rewrite your notes in a well-organized, neat, outline or use a concept map, or other organizer. Some students prefer to write a one page summary including all important information.  This is a good time to mark information in your reading notes that were also covered in the lecture.  Some students like to combine reading and lecture notes to create “Study Notes.”  Try several of these ideas and do what works best for you.

5. Review your notes just before bed. This allows your brain to make nerve connections while you sleep.

6. When you study for a test, be sure to review lecture notes carefully, along with reviewing material from your reading.


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