My personal reflection on note-taking…

I believe the first time I ever took notes was in high school. I certainly do not remember ever taking notes at any point in my life before this era. I do not remember being interested in journal writing or leaving a note on the counter for my parents when I went outside to play. I simply do not remember taking or writing notes of any kind. This is a tragedy. This is a horrible idea for me to think about. Not simply because I am studying effects of note-taking in grad school. The idea is horrible because if someone would had told me “hey scott, take out a journal and write something” I would have developed all sorts of valuable skills that I did not acquire until much late in life. Note-taking leads to all sorts of wonderful outcomes – none of which I will bore you with in this post.

My first experience with notes happened in a high school history class (10th grade – still shaking my head at this tragedy of learning to take notes so late in my childhood). The teacher would lecture and I learned that if I took notes I would do better, much better, on the exams. The use of notes were not allowed on the exams, but if you took good notes then everything you needed to know would be available to study. No one had to tell me this, I just sort of figured it out. Some students chose the “I will read the chapter method”, others chose the “I will just show up and take the exam method”. Those 2 methods never worked for me – and before 10th grade were also my go to strategies.

I was not taught how to take effective notes. I just wrote down what I heard. I remember I was absent from class a couple of days in a row and all I could think about were the notes I missed. I needed the notes or face the harsh reality of doing poorly on the exam. I am not quite sure but I think I recall the teacher asking me to seek out a classmate to get notes. Not everyone took notes. I asked the girl sitting next to me if I could use her notes. I will never forget these notes. They were organized in a way that could only be logical to the user. I wish I could show you the image in my head of these notes. I remember thinking “is this how I should be taking notes?” or “am I doing it wrong?”. I still think about these notes today. This student’s notes were written in one long paragraph style. There were no breaks in between ideas and concepts. Everything ran together and they were highly confusing. However, my point, is that they worked for the writer. The writer of the notes, from my knowledge, never altered her note style. She used this method for note-taking and, for her, it worked.

To this day I am constantly searching for the best note-taking method. I do not think one perfect method or strategy exists. However, I believe if you are taught to take notes from an early age this will help fill in many literacy gaps. At least it would have for me. Before writing this I searched for past notes and they must have met their demise at some point during the past decade. However, whatever method I used, it must have worked. I did well in my history class and if I recall it was one of the few classes where I did exceptionally well. I never thought to take this new found note-taking concept to a different class – such as math or English – I certainly wish I would have.

I introduced my daughters to note-taking very early in their lives. I didn’t formally introduce them, they simply modeled my writing behavior. Occasionally I see them writing down thoughts or things that happened during the day. They sometimes leave me notes in the morning such as what to pack in their lunch boxes. Sometimes they will leave me sticky notes saying thank you or letting me know they love me. I have shown them several note-taking strategies and I believe they will eventually learn a specific strategy that works best for them.

These are my thoughts of note-taking and reflections of my introduction to note-taking. I plan on writing about specific note-taking and organizational strategies in the near future where I will discuss the best approaches to note-taking and styles. However, in the end I think it will always come down to personal preference and, perhaps, more importantly, the act of taking notes. Just listening and writing.

I'm a psychology and educational psychology graduate now pursuing a PhD in Education at Ball State University. I am passionate with the idea that all students, no matter their background, are able to learn and be successful during their academic career and beyond.

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