How to take notes
Notes are, without a doubt, an essential part of learning for all students. They are vital in the process of teaching and learning, for three main reasons:
- They help you stay attentive and active during study, encouraging a better mental concentration.
- They force you to do a major exercise of comprehension and retention of the essential ideas, and of synthesized but complete written expression of the contents involved.
- They are a valuable reminder, the result of your own effort of mental analysis and synthesis, that you can revise whenever you please.
Attitude and disposition
You must attend your classes with the firm desire to take full advantage of every moment, making sure that you involve all your senses in the act of learning. Listen to the teacher, watch him or her and observe the expression on their face, the accent they put on words and on different nuances of the issues that they insist on, but also on the topics he repeats or only mentions briefly.
Don’t turn yourself into a scribe who copies word by word everything the teacher says. Your brain has to select quickly the essential ideas, and jot down those aspects that the teacher wants to emphasize, enrich or clarify.
Formulate questions in your mind at the beginning of the exposition, and try to find answers to all those questions by the end of the lesson.
- What to write down. Basically, taking notes requires the ability to select the main ideas of the author or speaker, as well as any important detail, following a logical plan of argumentation; that is, you must establish a hierarchic order of the contents, arranged by their importance. Consequently, your notes should contain:
– Everything the teacher presents in detail, as being of utmost importance.
– The main ideas and the questions formulated and immediately answered by the teacher, for a better and clearer exposition of their discourse.
– The examples that the teacher uses to illustrate the explanations, as well as the graphics and schema related to the subject.
– The bibliography cited by the teacher and the commentary made about each book.