How to take notes in class                            

One of the hardest things to figure out as a student is what to write down when a teacher is lecturing. There isn’t a hard and fast rule to this since every teacher (and therefore every class) is different. Nowadays with so many options for teachers to present material in class (i.e. chalkboard, Smart Board, PowerPoint, etc.), this has only gotten harder. But there are a few good guidlines.


1.   Write down the date in your notebook each day and something about what happened in class, even if it wasn’t something you needed to take notes on. This helps to create a “landmark” in your notebook. You probably won’t remember what happened in each lecture. But you will remember the video, or demonstration, or lab (in science classes), and noting when those happened will help you find the material in the lecture that occurred around the same time.


2.   Keep your notebook in chronological order. Most tests are organized that way so keeping the material that way helps. This is one reason why I HATE spiral-bound notebooks. You can’t re-organize the pages or insert notes from when you are absent. Flat folders with pockets are the best. They also weigh less so they are easier to carry. Three-ring binders are okay but are expensive, heavy and prone to having the rings bend if stuffed in a full backpack or locker.


3.   If it is a chalkboard or whiteboard then the instructor must physically write down the information. So…


“If it was important enough for me to write down, it is important enough for you to write in your notebook”


4.   If it is a PowerPoint I recommend that you ask the instructor “What should I be writing down?” Sometimes not everything in a PowerPoint is necessary to put in your notebook. Sometimes PowerPoints don’t have enough on a slide. Most teachers will be happy to clarify what you should be writing.


5.   Lastly, when should you write down something a teacher says?


a.   When they repeat it.

b.   When they spell something out loud.

c.    When it is a short phrase that spells out one important rule (i.e. “All things fall at a rate of 9.8 m/s”, “Always use the order of operations when solving a problem.”, “No one at that time felt this was possible”)


That’s the best of the basic rules, if you have any others, contact me and I will see if I should revise this list.


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Copyright© 2012  C. Boch