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Lesson #7 - Notetaking
Most teachers want you to remember what they say in class. All teachers will talk about
the most important ideas. If you can learn these ideas well, then you will make
Q: Are there any problems with learning in class?
Yes, there are at least a couple of problems in addition to those mentioned in Lessons 5 & 6. One problem is that people forget so much of what they hear,
as much as 70%.
Another problem is that there is no record to improve recall. After a teacher says
something, the words are gone; you can't hear them again. If you don't listen carefully,
you can't understand and remember an idea the first time it is presented. Therefore, you
have no chance of learning it.
Yet another problem is that it is difficult to pay attention for long periods, so it is
natural for attention to wander or to be distracted from time to time. Of course, there is
no way to recover the ideas presented while thinking of something else.
Q: Are there any solutions to these problems?
Yes, the main solution is to take good notes. In fact, it is estimated that students
who take notes can learn from 2 to 7 times more than those who do not. But, increased
learning is not guarenteed because you take notes. To improve your learning, you must take
notes and review them also.
One problem many students have is that taking notes is unfamiliar and uncomfortable. It
seems easier just to try to remember everything.
Q: How should you take notes?
We suggest that you take notes systematically. By using Preparing, Acting, and Testing
you can make your notes help you learn more.
To take good notes you first want to Prepare.
To Prepare to take notes:
Q: What Actions can you use to take good notes?
- Make separate notebooks for each subject: Spiral ring notebooks are good
because they are inexpensive and durable. Use a different color for each subject and write
the class on the outside cover.
- Write the date and class topic at the top of a blank page: You should begin
every class on a new page even if you have space from the previous day's notes.
- Write the date and page number on each page you use for each day: You will
need to do this as you begin a new page.
- Read your notes from the previous class: Use your actions to prepare (see Lessons 4, 5, 6),
to listen and to think about questions you have about assignments or expectations.
Act as described below to take notes:
Q: How can you test your notes?
- Listen carefully for main points and important details: Use your best
listening skills (see Lessons 5
- Write the main points in your notes: Under these main points write
important details. Write quickly but clearly so you can read later.
Don't try to write
everything, just the most important ideas. Write these accurately but in your own words.
Use abbreviations if you can (see Chart 7.1
for some common abbreviations).
Remember that you have to stop listening to write so, select carefully the times when
you write. Listen for a pause, an extra example, a repeat, or a change in topic to write.
If you are unsure of the main points, ask your teacher for help. It is best to not
write all the way across the page. Leave wide (1" - 1 1/2") margins on the left
Write in a way that is comfortable for you. You don't have to write sentences, but you
can. You can also outline as the teacher talks. And, you can write phrases and words.
As the teacher talks, write in the way that you find best. You may find you need to
change how you write for different teachers because some talk quickly or are more
organized than others.
Finally, you should write what a teacher shows on an overhead or the board. But, be
sure to listen also as the teacher talks.
Most teachers will put several items on an overhead and then talk about them in order.
If this is the case in your classes, wait to write each item until your teacher begins to
talk about it. This will let you have space to write details in your notes that may not be
on the overhead. Write these details under the main topic shown on the overhead.
- Leave some blank space: As your teacher changes from one topic to another,
leave 2 or 3 lines blank in your notes. Then, begin writing the information for the next
The third part of Systematic Study, PAT, is to Test yourself and your notes.
Here's how you do this:
- After class, read your notes: You should do this as soon as possible but at
least on the same day. As you read your notes, you will discover that you remember things
that you have not written. Write these in the spaces you left in your notes.
have things you can't read or that do not make sense, be sure to ask questions and clarify
these in your notes. Remember, you will forget 70% to 80% of what you hear within
24 hours, so its very important to reread and upgrade your notes the same day you take
- Next, read your notes again: This time you want to highlight everything
that is important. So, underline main points; put a circle around terms, dates, names; and
write questions about things you don't understand.
- Finally, draw a rectangle at the end of your notes: It should cover about
1/2 page. In this rectangle write three things:
- A summary of the main points in your own words: This should be short and clear. If you
are unsure that what you write includes the main points, ask your teachers. It may be a
good idea to ask your teachers to read your summaries anyway just to be sure you have
accurately identified main points.
- The key terms included in the lesson: These may be names, dates, facts, substances, etc.
These terms should be the ones you think you will need to know for tests and papers.
- Questions about this material: You can write questions you think your teacher might ask
on a test and you can write questions about things you don't understand. Be sure to ask
your teachers if there is something you don't understand.
To prepare for class the next day, you can read just the ideas in this rectangle. It
will help you quickly review main points and terms.
When writing your summary in the box be sure to write main ideas. These are
the most important points that your teacher says during class. Some people
make the mistake of writing the topics covered instead of main points.
Below are two examples. The first illustrates a good summary that states
main points. The second is not a good summary because it states
Example 1 - A Good Summary
The primary purpose of notes is to increase learning. It is best to take notes
sytematically and review them regularly. This allows you to control your success.
This is a good summary because it states the main points about taking good notes. These
are the main points of Lesson 7 that you would put in a summary if your teacher presented
it in class.
Example 2 - Not a Good Summary
The lesson covered the purpose of notes, how to take notes, and how to use your notes.
Notes are important.
This is not a good summary because it only identifies topics included e.g. "the
purpose of notes" not the main points, e.g., "notes increase learning."
Writing a good summary like the first example will improve your learning and be good
for you to review.
For practice, below write a summary of Lesson
6 in the space below. Then compare your summary with the one on the next page.
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Sample Summary of Lesson 6
Though difficult when you are not interested, there are actions you can take to listen
well. Listening more actively will increase interest and how much you can remember.
This is one example of a summary of Lesson
6. Other summaries could be just as good but should include the main point that
listening can be improved through your action. Other important points are that interest
can be increased, concentration improved, and memory enhanced through specific actions.
Q: How can you get started?
Get a notebook for each of your classes and label each. For the next few weeks, you may
want to use Form 7.2 to help you
complete your test part of good note taking. You can make copies of Form 7.2 and tape them into your notebook when you have them
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