Seven Strategies for More Effective Note Taking

NotebookLearning to take good lecture notes is an important skill for success in college.  This is a task that can be practiced while homeschooling high school or as part of dual enrollment courses.  One research study found that 62% of what a student hears in class is forgotten by the next day. Good notes will help you recall most of the material, but you don’t need to write down everything. Learning note taking systems will allow you to be selective in what you write down and still get down the main ideas of the lecture.

Even in this digital age, the majority of college students still take handwritten notes on paper rather than using an electronic device such as a tablet or laptop during lectures. Some schools prohibit laptop use and even at schools that allow keyboarding individual professors may discourage or disallow use due to problems with noise or distraction. So, even if your homeschooler prefers to keyboard it helpful if they are college bound it is advisable that they learn to take handwritten notes if possible.

Tips for Improved Note Taking

Set up organized notebooks
Have clear divisions for different subjects. A little time spent organizing the notebook at the beginning of the semester will save hassle looking for lost materials later. Always put the date on each page of your notes and write down a topic if possible.

Prior to enrolling in college classes. homeschoolers are well advised to learn to take notes. Video lectures such as those available through Coursera or the Teaching Company can offer an opportunity to practice learning to follow a lecture and take down reminders for later. Most students eventually develop their own system for notetaking but it can be helpful to begin with some exposure to different notetaking systems. There are tutorials and videos available online that teach notetaking systems such as Cornell method and the mapping method.

Review your notes every day or week
Make a quick review of class notes at the end of the day. You can fill in missing areas. It is the reviewing of notes that makes note taking an effective study method. Students with a system often find they need to study less before exams.

Sit in the front
Choose a seat in the classroom where you can easily see the board and hear the instructor. Research shows that students who sit in the front of the room tend to get better grades.

notebooksDon’t try to write down every word
Write lists, abbreviate, use arrows and draw pictures. Don’t let writing get in the way of listening.

Pre-reading or skimming your book before class will give you an idea what material is covered in the book so you know what you can skip in your notes. Reading ahead will also help your brain begin to organize concepts into a framework that will help you remember what you learn during lecture. Review any online class notes or PowerPoint slides provided by the instructor. Reading these before class will let you eliminate unnecessary note taking.

Mark questions
Put a question mark by material you don’t understand during the lecture. This will help you know what you need to follow up on with your reading or by asking the professor.


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