By Shania Kuo
There are four years of high school, but everyone seems to fear junior year the most. If I’m going to be honest, you should. For you sophomores and freshmen, I’ll be offering pieces of advice throughout the year to make your workloads more manageable and help keep your social life intact.
For my first tip, I’m taking the liberty of talking about notes. Students often overlook handwritten notes since many teachers hand out worksheets. However, in some high school classes and colleges, it is essential to write your own notes. Now, a problem I notice with many students is that they try to write down every little thing on the board. No! Notes are meant to be study materials, and you need to be able to process what you’re writing. Instead, paraphrase the notes into something you’ll understand later on.
Many forms of note-taking systems exist, but three are the most popular: the Outline Method, Cornell Notes, and flow-based note taking. As a reminder, these are examples and not meant for students to limit themselves. Keep in mind what works for one student may not work for another.
1. The Outline Method
Personally, this is the method I tend to stick to since I prefer to keep my system methodical. If not, I continue to a modified version of the Outline Method with post-its incorporated into the layout. In college, professors will not wait for you to write whatever they have on the board down. It is up to you to write down the main idea of their lecture. Many students try to write down paragraphs about what their professor is saying, but it makes for a daunting review afterward. Instead, the outline method follows a format like this (Note: your notes should make it easier on you to study, so don’t be afraid to personalize):
This method is the best for when your teacher presents clearly organized material as is in many high school classes. However, take note that the Outline Method does not show any relationships by sequence, and there’s not much diversity when reviewing. As a result, it is easier to slack off or be confused about how specific topics connect to the central theme.
2. The Cornell Method
The Cornell Method is very popular in college with its multi-purpose system. It allows for quick note-taking during lectures while deepening your understanding of concepts. Although it isn’t as popular in high school, learning the method now may provide experience for college. The system is set up in a way to allow for five different ways to process the lecture. In general, this is how you want your chart to look:
It is advisable to set up your chart the night before, so you’re not rushing during class or before class to draw it. This is especially important if you want to keep your notes as pristine as possible. When using the Cornell Method, the note-taking column records what you hear during the lecture. In the left column, as soon as possible after class, use your notes to write down any questions or critical terms to clarify abstracts. These after-class records can be used to help you review later.
Writing down questions is important because now you will cover the right side of your notes and try to answer the questions without them. Remember to reflect on some questions including: “Why are we learning this? How can I apply them? What principle are we using?” The most important thing to do with your notes, however, is to review! The point of notes is to help students understand the concept for tests. Make sure you look at them every week to allow concepts to sink in and fully benefit your studying.
3. Flow-Based Method
This is a very different method from the other two I discussed and goes against traditional learning methods. However, for visual learners, it may be a method to look into. While many students incorporate some aspects of it into their notes already, most students don’t understand the core of flow-based note-taking.
In flow-based notetaking, you’re emphasizing the essential details and omitting the irrelevant. It creates a new set of ideas and understandings while originally transcribing information. In traditional notetaking, students take notes to learn them later. With flow-based, you’re writing your notes with the intention of learning them in class. Here's an example:
When using flow-based learning, you would write down the main idea and use arrows and bubbles to connect supporting or branching ideas. You may find that images embellish your learning, so don’t feel restricted to a particular layout. This method of note-taking is based solely on what helps you learn.
Something to note is that it’s harder to write down exact information from your teacher with flow-based learning. Also, if you don't understand what's happening in class, then it is even more challenging to use this method. In traditional learning, it is straightforward to go on autopilot and write down whatever professors are saying. Since flow-based methods are focused on learning rather than writing, you can't do the same here.
Whatever note-taking examples you choose to go for, remember these are only examples. There are all sorts of note-taking systems in the world and notes are solely for your benefit. Whatever you think helps, go for it.
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