You enter the classroom. Your teacher waits a couple of minutes to begin. Seats soon become filled with students. Slowly, you reach out for your pencil and floppy notebook. Sighing, you flip it open on the first blank page to write, just as your teacher begins to drone.
“Okay class, today we are going to be going over…”
Except wait a second… What are you going to write? What do good school notes look like? What do bad ones look like? How you take notes down and what you write down can actualy play a crucial role in your memory process. So here are a couple of note taking methods and how to make notes! Try out these types of note taking to see what best works for you!
Though it is a longstanding debate, typing notes is shown to be less effective for memorization. According to three studies done by UCLA and Princeton, this is primarily because there is less mental activity occurring in the physical act of typing. In other words, since those who type notes tend to regurgitate the exact words of the teacher, there is less mental work and connection. On the other hand, students who wrote their notes down on paper were more likely to remember. Memorization was due to the tendency to reword and rewrite what the teacher was saying.
By far, this is the most common note writing method. Students typically write sentences of everything the lecturer says. These usually are in bullet points or simplified sentences. Because this is the simplest, it is usually done for lectures or classes that move at an accelerated pace. Though simple, these are great notes to get in the moment, but they don’t quite activate any critical thinking. Notes like this are often messy, and do not link crucial information together. For this reason, they are helpful for simple recognition, but not necessarily the best for analysis purposes.
What We Recommend: Try to prepare for class beforehand by reading the material and taking notes before. Reserve the Sentence Method notes mainly for difficult topics covered quickly. Additionally, review your notes afterwards and further organize them in another format.
Are you a visual learner? Then mind mapping might be for you!This style can be particularly useful for capturing the flow of ideas. Instead of focusing on the nitty-gritty, this style encapsulates leading lines and pathways. For example, this can be utilized to remember complicated timelines or important processes that occur in nature or on a molecular level. While it cannot encapsulate details, it isn’t meant to. This can also trail big ideas and their connections. Mind-mapping is a great exercise to find the connections between larger topics and discover how they all fall together.
What We Recommend: Use Mind-Mapping when reviewing notes to further explore the links between certain areas. These notes should be reserved for exploring relations in between conceptual ideas rather than retaining all information.
One of the most recommended styles, Cornell notes are all about synthesizing information to pull out the main ideas of each paragraph. This allows students to analyze their summaries to find the heart of the message. It invites students to critically think about what they just wrote.
So, how does it work? Cornell style notes require students to draw and divide their pages before note-taking begins. Alternatively, you can print out your papers with the proper formatting. Either way, prepare your pages before you get to class. On the left, you will have a thin column of around two and a half, to three inches. Leave space, roughly 1/3rd of the bottom of the page as well. The bottom will be your summary area, the right side will be the notes you have taken during class. Finally, the left side will be your “cues”. So, every time after a notable chunk of information, jot down the main idea or “cue” from those notes. This process repeats until the end of the note-taking process. Finally, at the end, there is a summary section to encapsulate everything that had been covered. Ideally, the summary should be completed right after note-taking. Why? This will help to retain information and organize it accordingly.
What We Recommend: Cornell-style notes are a GREAT way to study and retain information! These notes are extremely organized, easy to read, and functional. It also offers an easy opportunity to review the information and engage on a direct level with the material. These are great notes for everyday note-taking in most courses.
Are you a visual learner? Charts are great notes for categorizing and comparison! Though it does not explore the relationships between things, it is still a great note-taking tool for listing examples, noting differences between items, and finding similarities as well! This note style is more interpretive, as what chart you make is up to you. So long as it suits your class and topics, this style is a great option for paying attention to categorization. Since there is active mental work for the student, this option holds great potential.
What We Recommend: Use chart notes when studying a comparison or during a study video as a recap of the whole lesson.
Very similar to the sentence method, this style can be used to keep track of information during class, but much simpler. Typically, outlines offer a great breakdown of information. Though aesthetically pleasing, it is much more regurgitation rather than actively working with the material. These are great notes for before or after class, but are rather surface-level at best. To be fair, there is an exception: this format is great for keeping organized notes during a lecture. If you feel fairly comfortable within the class, and keeping track of categories is a larger issue, then these notes may be most suitable.
What We Recommend: Outline notes are superb notes for studying prior to class or for categorization. However, for the day of class, these are not necessarily as suitable.
As for the more imaginative and creative notes, this will vary depending on the person. For visual learners, this is a great way to associate certain ideas with differing colors. Doing so can help with memory. However, highlighting and drawing might be best reserved for reviewing notes, as it can take a lot of time. In fact, it can be a bit of a distraction to switch highlighters and focus on the composition of the page, much rather than the information at hand. Personally, even with my artistic students, I notice that these note styles work much better after. As for the initial stages of processing information, it can be much less suitable.
The vast variety of options might seem daunting, but remember to explore! Learning styles vary between students, and so much as you devote enough time, there shouldn’t be a reason you won’t succeed. Still, if you are stuck, feel free to try the more beginner-friendly note styles, such as typing Cornell-style notes.
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