You can think about four times FASTER than a lecturer can speak. Effective LISTENING requires the expenditure of energy; to compensate for the rate of presentation, you have to actively intend to listen. The key is active not passive; get involved in the process. NOTE-TAKING is one way to enhance listening, and using a systematic approach to the taking and reviewing of your notes can add immeasurably to your understanding and remembering of the content of lectures.
- Develop a mind-set geared toward listening.
- Test yourself over the previous lecture while waiting for the next one to begin.
- Read assigned material (SQ3R) or at least S (skim) and Q (question) to acquaint yourself with main ideas, new terms, etc.
- Do what you can to improve physical and mental alertness (fatigue, hunger, time of day, where you sit in the classroom, all affect motivation).
- Choose notebooks that will enhance your systematic note-taking: a separate notebook with full-sized pages is recommended for each course. You might wish to mark off the pages in a particular format such as that of the Cornell System of Note-taking.
INTEND TO LISTEN
During Class: SIT CLOSE TO SPEAKER
- Listen for the structure and information in the lecture. Use signal words such as:
- “Today I want to cover...” Introduction and/or Title
- “Four points...” “Three causes...” Organizational cues
- “Next I want to discuss...” Change of topic
- “I emphasize...” “To repeat...” Cues regarding importance
- Pay attention to the speaker for verbal (louder or higher pitched inflections) and body language cues of what’s important.
- Be consistent in your use of form, abbreviations, etc. (key your abbreviations).
- Make a conscious effort to concentrate on what the speaker is saying. Don’t get sidetracked by:
- a speaker’s appearance or mannerisms.
- your emotional reaction to the subject matter.
- Label important points and organizational clues: main points, examples.
- When possible, translate the lecture into your own words, but if you can’t, don’t let it worry you into inattention!
- Ask questions if you don’t understand.
Instead of closing your notebook early and getting ready to leave, listen carefully to information given toward the end of class; summary statements may be of particular value in highlighting main points, there may be possible quiz questions, etc.
After Class: SAME DAY AS LECTURE (Reduce, Recite, Reflect)
- Clear up any questions raised by the lecture by asking either the teacher or classmates.
- Fill in missing points or misunderstood terms from text or other sources.
- Edit your notes, labeling main points, adding recall clues and questions to be answered. Key points in the notes can be highlighted with different colors of ink.
- Make note of your ideas and reflections, keeping them separate from those of the speaker.
- A checklist for editing your notes:
- Did you state the main topic of the lecture?
- Are all words intelligible?
- Are symbols and abbreviations keyed?
- Is the structure clear? If not, you may need to rewrite.
- Did you write cue words in the left margin for self-testing?
- Did you miss any points? You may need to compare notes with a classmate.
- Review your notes: glance at your recall clues and see how much you can remember before rereading the notes.
- Look for the emergence of themes, main concepts, methods of presentation over the course of several lectures.
Make up and answer possible test questions.