Simple Tool for Successful Learning: Taking Notes

Taking notes is about more than just remembering and being able to reproduce data. It’s actually a pretty important learning tool, which helps develop student’s minds in ways that go beyond the subject they’re taking at the moment. Active listening is necessary to take in the information and organize them in clear and simplified way – and that’s basically what note taking is. It’s an exercise for the mind and it’s practically half of the learning process.

Here’re a few a techniques students (but also anyone else) can use to get the most out of note taking:

The Cornell method

This is the most famous note taking method and there is a good reason for it. It’s very effective and it can be applied to almost any subject or class. Most importantly, with it, you can retain a lot if information pretty quickly. Students should divide the page in two columns. Left one should be a little narrower and that one is for writing down general ideas and overarching themes. The right, wider one is for actual notes and specific information. During the actual studying student should be able to cover the right part and still be able to reproduce its content, just by looking at the narrower column.

Highlighting

Highlighting can be a very useful addition to note taking if it’s done right. On the other hand, if it’s not, it can actually confuse and overwhelm the students. You should start with highlighting after the class, when all the information (and its level of importance) has sunk in. The general rule is that you should highlight just one word in every paragraph. That can be a new term or a phrase or it should some up the most important piece of information in that paragraph. The colors are up to every individual student, but there shouldn’t be more than 3 of them.

Digitalization

Digitalizing your notes with apps such as Thinkswap gives you all the benefits of ordinary note taking with added benefits of modern technology. Studying is a social activity and note taking should be as well. With digital notes you can share the experience and knowledge of your fellow students and you can contribute yourself. Notes can be available in any format and read on any device and you can easily turn highlights into clickable hyperlinks and therefore remove the hassle of having to trough too many notes at once.

Shorthand system

There’s always a difference between the class and how it looks on the page when you’re done with it. Classes have a certain rhythm, which is usually defined by the professors themselves and the way they lecture. Shorthand system allows you to jot down things fast as the professor is speaking. There are common ways to do it, but you can devise your own system depending on the subject. Use abbreviations, leave out vowels or use symbols if you’re studying chemistry or physics. It’s usually a good idea to go through your shorthand note while they’re still fresh and make proper notes out of them at home.

Organizing

Good notes are the ones that help students learn. It’s up to the individual students to organize them in the way that’s best for them. This can be done by grouping notes by subject or by lesson or theme. It can also be done chronologically (which is the way notes already are in your notebook or computer) if the students prefer it that way (although few do). It can be good to add keywords on the end of each note or a page. If your notes are digital, that will also help with searching.

Mind maps

In the end, are an especially interesting subcategory of notes. They can be very effective and helpful or they can be too much work to make and too complicated to get trough. This depends on the individual students and it’s not a good idea to force yourself in to using them if it’s not your thing. For those who need (or prefer) visual aids mind maps can help to visually represent the connection between different ideas or concepts.

Taking meticulous and well organized notes will help students get the most out of their classes, but it can do more than that. It’s a way to teach young people to distinguish important from unimportant information. And that’s a skill that comes handy later in life.

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