Note-Taking

You have to make your own condensed notes.  You learn from MAKING them.  A lot of thinking goes into deciding what to include and exclude.  You develop your own system of abbreviations and memory methods for the information.”  – Peter Rogers.

This article is written mainly for secondary and tertiary level students and is supported by Wikipedia, several other educational sources and my own experience.

Note-taking is the process of recording information that you consider important.  This information may be taken from regular classes, lectures, conferences, discussions, books, the internet, or other reliable sources.  You should use key-words and short sentences as far as possible in writing your notes.

Teachers often present and emphasize in class the concepts and supporting points that students will need to pass examinations.  Therefore students need to know how to listen actively and take notes.  They also need to know how to read critically and analyse books, journals, and digital information in order to get to the most important ideas they contain.

You record the main points and, in so doing, create a permanent record of what was said or written by the source of your information.  Note-taking is an effective learning tool and a vital skill for all students.

The goal in sensible note-taking is not to record everything, but to have an accurate record of all the main points cited by your source.  Use your own words as far as possible as this will help you to comprehend the material subsequently.

Your notes can be reviewed in preparation for tests, assignments and projects.  If you are a skilful note-taker you will have all the required information at your fingertips.  I must add here that note-taking can easily be done electronically using laptops, tablets and other devices, and that there is software available that facilitates note-taking.

Note-taking is a practice that requires skill in listening and reading, determining what is important for your purpose, and recording it in the most concise way possible.  You do not want your notes to be too long.

Whether your notes are recorded in dedicated notebooks, folders or digitally, they should be properly organized and sequenced.  They will form an integral part of your personal information management system which allows you to retrieve needed information at will.

You can use abbreviations, diagrams, and a numbered or bullet system to make your notes shorter.  Mind maps will be helpful as well.  Many students prefer to write notes in the form of sentences.  Some underline or use different colours or highlights for more important information.

One of the major challenges in note-taking is that it is often a race against time, especially if you are taking notes from a lecture or discussion, since people speak faster than you can write.  The key is is to listen attentively, select what is really relevant and important, and jot it down quickly, rather than trying to write everything that is said. Afterwards, you must review and edit your notes.  Recite your notes in preparation for examinations.

Interested readers can research different note-taking methods or systems in order to be more effective in this practice.  Choose the method(s) you are most comfortable with.  I will end this discussion by mentioning five well-known note-taking methods you can research, namely, the Cornell Method, the Outlining Method, the Mapping Method, the Charting Method, and the Sentence Method.  You will find them here.

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The Power of Reading

He that loves reading has everything within his reach.”  – William Godwin.

If anyone were to ask me what is the most effective learning tool available to students, my answer would be frequent reading.  I can speak of this from personal and professional experience.  Students can read traditional books or they can read online.  In fact, online reading is growing by leaps and bounds these days.

Educational experts agree that there is a strong correlation between extensive critical reading and higher academic achievement.  Eclectic and targeted reading both lead to significant acquisition of knowledge.  Habitual readers develop their reading comprehension skills and derive greater meaning from the text.  They get better at doing this with practice and at the same time they develop their higher order thinking and learning skills along with their understanding of abstract concepts.  All of this helps to create a much better student in the long run.

Some time ago Forbes indicated that studies show that reading fiction increases the readers’ emotional intelligence.  This then gives them a better understanding and management of themselves, people, and events in real life.  Dan Hurley, in an article in theguardian (23 January 2014) “Can reading make you smarter?” and in his book Smarter affirms that reading can increase all three major categories of intelligence.

Let us consider some aspects of the power of reading in the academic lives of our students:

  • Reading facilitates lifelong learning.
  • It facilitates research and progress in any subject.  Students can improve in their weak areas by reading.
  • Literature and history teach human behaviour and enhance students’ social and emotional intelligence.  They also teach analytical skills.
  • Reading allows students to stay ahead of the class.
  • Students are less dependent on the teacher.  Reading gives new ideas.
  • Research shows that reading improves students’ grammar, vocabulary, and use of language.
  • It is good preparation for higher education.
  • Reading develops the creative imagination.
  • Students learn to select and summarize the important information in any text.
  • Research has shown that regular reading stimulates improvement in logical thinking skills.
  • Reading leads to improvement in all communication skills.
  • Reading improves intelligence.
  • Reading enhances memory.

Given all the positive points about the power of reading stated above, there can be no doubt that reading is a very powerful learning tool for all students.  Parents and teachers must encourage students to read on a regular basis.  All the information in the world is available in books and online.  Teachers are no longer the main repositories of knowledge.  Of course, students should seek help when they do not understand certain elements of what they are reading.

Finally, if students continue reading on a regular basis, most of them will discover at some point, that in addition to its utilitarian value, reading can be a source of great pleasure or satisfaction.  When students reach this point in their intellectual development, the real power of reading becomes evident and they accept greater responsibility for their own academic and personal progress.  Two tools that complement critical reading are effective summarization and concise note-taking in the students’ own words.  This helps them to construct their own knowledge.