Do you write down every word your teacher says? That’s actually the worst way to take down classroom notes. You aren’t a human tape recorder—and if you try to be, you may be putting so much effort in writing that you’re not thinking, analyzing, or reciting. (And this sort of interactive effort is what will really make you learn!)
HeSo what’s the secret to effective classroom notes? Read these essential tips to create notes that will help you learn, remember and understand the subject better.
Read the chapter the night before
You’ll feel rather silly to take down notes only to find out that it’s already in the book, So spend a few minutes just looking over the chapter. Note down what you don’t understand, or what you think (based on the teacher’s syllabus, usually given at the start of the semester) will be important.
Observe the flow of the lecture
Textbooks are written for a broad audience. So, the information is there but you need the classroom lecture to help give you clues on what’s important, and how your teacher connects the facts.
So, as your teacher talks—and you take down any information that aren’t included in the textbook—pay attention to the outline of the lecture, or how your teacher organizes the information and connects it to the broader curriculum. Note down, In outline form:
a. Main concepts and the minor concepts
b. Context. This can include any historical or thematical background information, or the relevance of the facts to a modern problem or issue
c. Unique definitions and explanations, analogies
d. References to previous lectures (to see how the teacher is connecting the information)
e. Suggested references for further study
Cross-index your notes and textbooks
After the lecture, compare your notes and the textbook. Next to the teacher’s explanation, write down the page number of the textbook, or the titles of any handouts or additional reading material she may have given. This may seem like a lot of effort but it will help you during exam week! (read our tips on preparing for a test)
Make a code
The code helps you identify, at a glance, key concepts and the relationship between concepts. You can try using one color highlighter for the main ideas, and another for supporting ideas. Or you can summarize notes in a ‘mind map’ or an outline. You can also add your own insights (or a handy mnemonic device) in a pen of a different color.
Read over the notes and the textbook and write down questions to raise during the lecture or during consultation hours. One way to check if you understand something is to try to say it in your own words.
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