HomeeducationNote Taking Techniques
Note taking crosses from schooling
into many professional worlds.
By Jacinta Quesada [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

One of the hardest thing for folks with any sort of language processing problem is in taking notes. Information gets missed during the lecture, notes are impossible to read afterwards, or the entire lecture goes to waste because the student is trying too hard to take notes while being attentive at the
same time.

Over time, those dry, lecture driven courses have been shown to be less effective than more hands on classes, but they’re still the stand-by for quite a few subjects. Since many students have such difficulty taking effective notes, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned through reading and practice.

If you don’t already have permission to record the lecture, request it. Some lectures may already be taped and put up on various web platforms, so be sure to ask about that. This is one of the accommodations offered to many dyslexic students, and those with auditory processing problems, but it’s also helpful to neurotypical students, as well.

More often than not, people don’t get the full benefit of a lecture or discussion the first time around. Our attention naturally wanders after a while, and listening to the same sequence multiple times will help you pick up information more effectively.

Experiment with different formats of note taking. This pdf  illustrates several great methods,
including outlining and mapping. I’ve found that the mapping technique tends to work better for some things than others.

For instance, when I was doing research for an article about Project Blue Book, I mapped out the sequence of command on a white board, while writing specifics down on the notebook I keep for the page I wrote it for. Once I got what I needed, I outlined the article and checked off each point as I inserted it into the piece.

However, I don’t always use the mapping technique, since it doesn’t work as well for some subjects as it does others. Experiment and don’t be afraid to use different techniques for different types of classes. It all depends on how your brain works.

Behold my awesome handwriting. These are my notes for this article.

Color Coding and Numbering
Two more fantastic methods that may help you make sense of your notes is to employ color coding. Assign a color to different types of information, then go through and highlight notes which correspond to the topic.

This works particularly well if you’re given an outline beforehand to work with, or if you’re given hints about what you’ll be tested on. Numbering works well with this, too, because you can assign numbers to either a sequence of information or prioritize the info given.

Relax and Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
Anxiety is a massive problem for many students. Unfortunately, that issue makes schooling even more difficult, which only makes it worse. As hard as it may be, stay as relaxed as possible in class, so your mind remains open enough to gather information. Remember, if you’re recording the lecture, you don’t need to catch everything the first time around. Even if you’re not, don’t be afraid to ask one of your peers to compare notes, so both of you can compile the various things you’ve both picked up.

By the same token, if you need help on the subject, seek it as soon as possible. The sooner you can clear up the confusion, the better you’ll be able to do. These are some common resources you should be able to take advantage of:

  • Your teacher
  • Tutoring centers
  • Study groups
  • Other classmates
  • Family

Each situation is different, so you may have options to all of these, or just a few.

Once you figure out what works for you, education will be less of a nightmare and more of a blessing.

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