Purpose: Students identify ways to focus on important information while note taking.
1. Students write a general description of themselves.
Tell students that once they’ve asked the important questions, they are ready to begin taking notes. Explain that the following activity will help them recognize how the answers to those questions make note taking easier and more effective.
Instruct students to spend three minutes writing descriptions of themselves. They are to write as much as they can in three minutes. Guide students to describe their physical appearance, where they live, the number of siblings they have, and so on.
2. Students take notes from written descriptions.
Divide students into pairs. Tell the pairs to trade papers and to take notes on the description as they silently read each other’s work.
Allow students one minute to read and take notes. Remind them to ask themselves each question before they begin reading and to make mental notes of what they already know and what they want to learn.
Ask students to compare their notes with the written description. Elicit from students the differences between their notes and the written description.
3. Students identify abbreviations to use during note taking.
Ask students how they might ensure that they write everything they need to remember without taking the time to write exactly what they read or hear. Elicit from students that abbreviations and shorthand are effective strategies to use when taking notes. Have students brainstorm abbreviations and shorthand. Ask them to identify different symbols and abbreviations that are commonly used. Offer suggestions such as the following: “lbs.” for “pounds,” “St.” for “street,” “b/c” for “because,” “10 yrs.” for “10 years,” etc.
4. Students repeat the exercise.
Ask students to find a different partner. Tell students to trade their papers and to take notes again. Remind them that they have one minute to write the most comprehensive notes they possibly can.
Ask students to again compare their notes with the written description. Elicit from students the differences between their notes and the written description.
5. Students recognize that the second set of notes is more effective.
With the class, compare and contrast the two activities. Ask:
- Which of the two assignments was easier? Why?
- Did you need the same amount of time to get as much information as possible? Why?
- Which set of notes is more concise? Why?
Tell students that when taking notes, less is more. Speculate why this might be true. Lead students to recognize that it is best to write down only important information and to be as brief as possible. The questions they ask themselves before they begin taking notes will help them to determine which information is important.
6. Students recognize strategies for identifying important information.
Refer again to the activity sheet and direct students’ attention to “Focus on the important details.” Ask students to suggest ways to identify the important information in a book they are reading. (Students might respond: chapter titles, bold or italicized words, concepts that relate to material already covered in class.)
Ask students to suggest ways to identify important information when listening. Remind students about nonverbal communication and refer to part II of “Lesson 2: Listening” of Module One: Communication Skills, which focused on picking up verbal and nonverbal signals in order to listen effectively.
Explain that people often use their tone of voice and facial expressions to stress important ideas.