Senior Skills – How To Take Effective Notes

Throughout this first week of class we have covered a lot of content – your summer reading novel, the early history of English in the Anglo Saxon period and the differences between modern and Old English, Anglo Saxon poems “The Wanderer”, Beowulf, and the story of “The Dream of the Rood”. With your first test coming up, you need to ask yourself – am I taking enough notes? Am I taking ‘good’ notes?

As seniors you will probably realize that reading over assignments or texts once will not be enough – likewise, jotting things down in class and reading over them once will also probably not be sufficient to get the grade you desire. Below you will find a few helpful tips for note-taking that will (hopefully) help you out this semester.

1.Write things down in class, but know that these are not ‘notes’. Good notetakers re-write their messy notes.

You’re probably thinking “Wait, what?”, but yes – your messy, jotted down notes from class are not actually good ‘study notes’. Rewriting these notes for legibility does two things – one, it gives you a better copy to study from in the future and two, is a form of studying and reinforcing the information as you have to read the text (visual/cognitive) and rewrite the text (knesthetic/cognitive). See the student examples of messy class notes, and rewritten notes below.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Find a method of notetaking that works for you – yes, there are different ways to take notes!

Simply writing everything your teacher says in a long list is not effective note-taking. You need to find a way of organizing your notes that works for you, whether its a formal style like Cornell Notes or the Outline Method (this works great for textbook note-taking), or even the Doodle Method (yes, drawing pictures helps!). Maybe you have a system of using highlighted sections, color coding, or diagrams. Whatever it is, find the method that works for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Don’t try to write everything down in class.

As seniors you hopefully know by now that trying to copy everything down word for word from a powerpoint, or that your teacher says, is a fruitless endeavor. You need to focus on getting just the key facts down, and doing so in your own voice. Re-reading my technical, dry powerpoint text later isn’t as effective as reading your own voice and natural word choice. Additionally, when you rewrite your notes (see #1 above) you can also go back and add in extra detail that you didn’t have a chance to get in class. Moreover, you will have the benefit of having the entire class to ruminate on, and all the additional connections you made to integrate and add to your notes later.

 

4. You can also RECORD your notes!

Are you an auditory learner? You may want to consider downloading a free sound recording app on your phone (voice memo for ISO is terrible you guys…) and recording yourself reading these notes. I am a strong auditory learner – because of this I use up most of my data on audiobooks and podcasts – and I remember the things I hear. This also means that for big projects, or when I attend a conference and have ideas I’d like to work on or get back to later, I record myself discussing these ideas outloud. Later, I can play them back to jog my memory, or to transcribe in any written or typed notes I take. Or, you can read your written notes aloud and listen to that sound file when its time to study. There are all kinds of new apps coming out for auditory note-takers, but if you don’t want to pay for them, just get a free sound recording app and try it out.

 

5. You might use a variety of note-taking styles.

I listen to auditory notes and podcasts and audiobooks. I jot quick notes on sheets of paper or handouts or napkins or whatever I have around. I rewrite my notes to look ‘neat’ and usable long into the future. I highlight, underline, use different colored highlights. I use everything I need to have effective notes that help me remember the content so I can put it to use and learn it – and so I can refer back to it whenever I need a refresher. Know that you may use a combination of lots of different styles until you find what works for you! Below you’ll see an example of notes I took FIVE YEARS AGO that I STILL USE. In them I employed a variety of styles of notetaking… how many styles will work for you?

 

 

12th Grade Literature Fall 2018

Senior Skills – A New Way of Reading

As you may have already realized, senior literature will be a little different than your previous courses. While the larger focus on language use instead of literary analysis is an obvious difference, you may have also noticed that the readings for this class reflect the fact that it is your fourth level English course. Gone are the days of ‘reading over’ your assignments, ‘skimming’ the required text or just reading over it once and being ‘good’.

As your text become more layered and complex, your reading style needs to change to reflect this. Often times you may need to do one, or all, of the following:

  1. Reread the passage multiple times.
  2. Take notes over the passage while reading it to help you understand.
  3. Look up additional helpful information online if you get stuck.
  4. Study and talk to classmates about the readings before coming to class.
  5. Reading any footnotes or supplementary information included in the text.

These are skills that you will need in many different situations – most definitely if you plan on attending a four year college, but also in technical school and training or certification programs, on-site job training and the military. These skills are also not unique to ‘English’ or ‘Literature’ – in fact, I used them most often in my science courses in college.

Steps one through four above should be familiar to you, but footnotes may be new.

While reading a book or article, have you ever noticed little numbers placed at the ends of some sentences?

These numbers usually appear as superscripts and correspond with numbers placed at the bottom of the page, next to which appears further information that is both necessary and supplementary. Sometimes this information will come in the form of citations, but sometimes it will simply present additional notes about the topic at hand.

These citations and explanations are called footnotes (because they appear in the footer of the page).

Long explanatory notes can be difficult for readers to trudge through when they occur in the middle of a paper. Providing this information is necessary, but doing so in the main text can disrupt the flow of the writing. Imagine if every time an author wanted to provide a citation, the entire citation had to be written out at the end of the sentence, like this (Anthony Grafton, The Footnote: A Curious History [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999] 221). Books would become much longer and reading much more tedious. That’s why footnotes are so useful: they allow authors to provide the required information without disrupting the flow of ideas.

Footnotes can include anything from a citation to parenthetical information, outside sources, copyright permissions, background information, and anything in between, though certain style guides restrict when footnotes can be used.

Inc, S. (n.d.). What Are Footnotes and How Do You Use Them? Retrieved from https://www.scribendi.com/advice/what_are_footnotes.en.html

Footnotes can actually save you that extra step of looking up outside information, depending on how detailed or well written they are. But why should you care about the footnotes? The video below looks at the importance of footnotes from a historical perspective, while the article after that examines the importance of footnotes from a literary perspective. You will be encountering both types in the course, so please review both of these resources.

Click here for Jeff Sommer’s article “Consider the Footnote: Why Don’t More Author’s Use This Powerful Tool?”.

Ultimately, footnotes are there to help you and enrich your reading and understanding of a text, its historical context, the related scholarship and research surrounding it, or to add an additional narrative layer to a work of fiction. Know that it may take some time to get used to reading with footnotes – rereading a text at least twice, first to read the text along and second to read the text and incorporate your reading of the footnotes – can be an effective way to adapt to this new reading style.

 

12th Grade Literature Fall 2018

Old English – Beowulf

Last week we dove into Old English literature and analyzed not just the rhythm and structure of Anglo Saxon poetry, but the importance of the comitatius and warrior culture to the Anglo Saxon way of life. “The Wanderer” focused on the experience and loss felt by a warrior – this week we are going to look at another example of Anglo Saxon culture from the perspective of a Lord/King, in a selection from the epic poem “Beowulf”.

We will be focusing on the final speech and death of Beowulf in class, and analyzing the text to understand what was expected of a man as a strong leader during this time period. However, understanding the context of the rest of the epic poem will be valuable to understanding this final excerpt, so please review this background video on the historical context of Beowulf:

Additionally, it will be important for you to understand the earlier actions in the poem so that the importance of Beowulf’s death can be fully analyzed. While I strongly encourage you to read the entirety of this epic poem so that you can expose yourself to even more nuanced uses of language, I am providing a summary of the plot below:

Additionally, click here to access a copy of the readings if you lost your from class.

Please click here for the annotated version of the text from class.

 

Additionally, you will find my ‘messy class notes’ over Beowulf below. Visit the post on “Senior Skills: How To Take Effective Notes”, and use these these in your rewriting to determine which note-taking style works best for you.

Click here for Mrs. Pierce’s class notes over Beowulf.

12th Grade Literature Fall 2018