But how do you remember it? The obvious answer is to write it down, take notes, record it on your phone or an old-school tape recorder if you are allowed (a strategy that has never actually worked for me, btw. Who remembers to go back and listen?). What happens when you've never been taught how to take notes? You flip to a blank page in your nearest notebook and start jotting, not a completely wasted effort. Dustin Wax, an anthropologist, artist and contributor to LifeHack.org has written that
" WHEN WE WRITE SOMETHING DOWN, RESEARCH SUGGESTS ... IT’S AS IF WE WERE DOING THAT THING. WRITING SEEMS TO ACT AS A KIND OF MINI-REHEARSAL FOR DOING. ...VISUALIZING DOING SOMETHING CAN “TRICK” THE BRAIN INTO THINKING IT’S ACTUALLY DOING IT, AND WRITING SOMETHING DOWN SEEMS TO USE ENOUGH OF THE BRAIN TO TRIGGER THIS EFFECT. AGAIN, THIS LEADS TO GREATER MEMORIZATION, THE SAME WAY THAT VISUALIZING THE PERFORMANCE OF A NEW SKILL CAN ACTUALLY IMPROVE OUR SKILL LEVEL."
Writing is great practice, but just writing it down isn't enough. If you haven't ever been taught to take effective notes, you may have just grabbed a Grammar notebook to jot down a math formula, or have written down the foundations of the Fibonacci sequence next to your map of the circulatory system. That won't do you any good when you go to check over your notes before finals and realize that you have seven chapters of material spread over five notebooks, sprinkled amidst doodles of dragons and cars and superheros burning holes through your textbooks. There are several steps easy steps you can take to make your life easier before you ever begin writing in class: 1. Keep separate, CLEARLY DEFINED areas for each subject. If you are allowed, keep completely separate notebooks. If not, make sure that you have dividers with visible tabs in your binder. When you designate which notebook for which subject, KEEP them separate. Separate but equal is allowed here. 2. Always have your proper materials on hand. It takes way too much time to hunt down a pencil and make sure it is sharp or find a pen that has enough ink to last the class. Oh, crap! Does that handout need holes to fit in your binder? You'd have more time to listen and pay attention if you'd kept a folder, portable 3-hole puncher, or sheet protectors in your binder so you could just slip the paper in and get on with your life. 3. Know your writing style. Are you artistic? Do you doodle over everything? Maybe a notebook with 2 columns will help you. Take your notes on one side, doodle on the other, but never the twain shall meet. Are you mathematical and practical, but messy - never keeping your lines and numbers straight? Graph paper will help keep you in line. Once you have your prep down, it's time to get to writing. It is tempting to just open your ears, shut your mouth, and jot down everything you hear. Try it that way and you'll quickly find out that you will fall further and further behind and really not take in much of your education. Your teacher's entire career is based off of how fast he can shove information in to your brain. It's guaranteed that he can speak faster than your hand can move. There's help for that though. Everyone processes what they hear differently, but there are several ways to help you learn whichever way is best for you. Start off by turning to the first blank page in your designated notebook, dating the top of the page, and giving it a subject head (ex: "Coordinate Planes", "Battle of Stalingrad" "Cheesecake Brownies"). Cornell (two-column) notes: Divide your paper in to two columns - one side is 1/4 of your paper and is for jotting down formulas, words to define, and "big" ideas. The big side is for writing down definitions, summaries, and little details. Leave a space at the bottom of your page to write down an overview of your notes that day. Outlining: Uses levels to organize ideas. This requires a little bit more thought as you go along, but can result in more complete notes. Use indents, roman numerals, bullets, slashes, and dashes to properly record your thoughts I. This is a new topic or main idea A. This applies to the idea above it. If there is an A, there must be a B. i.)This applies to A. If there is a i), there must be a ii) ii) This also applies to A B. This applies to I. - This applies to B. There is no i), so there is no ii). A single - is appropriate. II. A new topic or main idea separate from I. Indents work when there is not enough information to justify new letters or bullets. Charting: Uses a chart of columns and rows to relate information in a visual way. Create headings. Write facts and information under each heading. Each new fact gets a new row. Rows should relate to each other. Mapping: Uses a chart to emphasize critical thinking and show relationships. Draw circles for the main idea. Draw other circles and connect them with a line to the main ideas that they apply to. Sentence Notes: Writing main points and details in sentence form, The two most popular methods for classes such as History, Literature, Grammar, and Mathematics would be Cornell and Outlining. They provide speed, simplicity, and efficiency while still capturing the heart of what you need to know. Outlining does require the ability to think quickly to organize appropriately, as well as a bit more time to decide just how much space you need. With outlining, it is more difficult to go back and fit notes in if your instructor decides to backtrack. Cornell is not as linear and allows room for additional information. It does, however, require you to go back and make sure it is organized properly when you study. Charting and mapping work well for visual learners, as well as being most ideal for concept based classes like Biology. These methods allow you to instantly form patterns and relationships in your mind and help when rote memorization is desired. Sentence form is usually not best when time is of the essence, but can help when you don't know which ideas are going to be important later. So there you have how to take notes. How do you know what you should be noting? First off, listen to how your teacher speaks. Anything that the she repeats several times is usually a good idea. The summary at the beginning of class usually covers what they want you to know from the last class, so that is a great place to start your day's notes. Record dates, names of people and places, and any word that has to be defined. Write down any questions you may have, as well as the answer - you'll probably have the same question again when the material is not so fresh on your mind. Examples - if the concept is one where your teacher says "to illustrate..." or "Say we have...", then it is one that is important to them. That means it should be important to you. Write it down. Any time the subject changes, make a new heading. I hope this helps. If you have any other note taking methods or classroom strategies, I'd love to hear them. Leave a comment for me below!