Four Keys to Key Points of College Lectures
by Kathryn Bell
Does either of the following describe your notetaking style?
I don't know what's important, so I just write everything down.
I don't know what's important, so sometimes I just sit there and don't write anything.
If you don't know what's important in a lecture, then you're not making
the most of your hard-spent tuition dollars. Efficient note-taking skills
will maximize classroom time, which leads to more effective study time,
too. And both pay off with dividends of high marks.
Ready to start unlocking treasure from a lecture? Then use these four
simple keys to note-taking success.
Key #1. Pre-read and brainstorm.
Like any type of exercise, listening requires warm-up. Don't let your
brain receive information "cold." Instead, use the few minutes
before class to review the previous day's notes and handouts, and preview
any readings for that day's class. This allows you to become familiar
with new vocabulary and concepts, and gives you a chance to figure out
any charts, diagrams or maps the professor will use.
Also, use this time to brainstorm and note any questions you may have
at this point. Remember that if you listen for something,
you will be more attentive. Then, if your questions are not addressed,
put up your hand and ask, or raise them in the discussion period.
Key #2. Know thy professor.
If you've taken five courses, chances are you've experienced five different
teaching styles. Some lecturers distribute outlines; others give lengthy
introductions. This information allows you to organize your note paper
right from the beginning of the lecture. Listen for the verbal clues:
First we'll cover. . . . .Then we'll do. . . . Later, as the
professor speaks, just fill in the details under the categories mentioned.
Lecturers may emphasize different kinds of details, too. Some may use
anecdotes to illustrate points, or relay real-life examples. While the
principles are key, so are the anecdotes, so don't snooze
through the stories! Instead, ask yourself, What does that story
teach me? and jot down its main point beside the principle.
Some professors make extensive use of chalkboards or overheads. Write
down what they do, including strange arrows, dots and underlinings! Wild
scribblings may seem unintelligible at the time, but may come clear later
on. Arrows and lines often indicate key points or conceptual connections.