Nine Note Taking Skills from an Aspiring Teacher

Do you ever wonder why you can never remember what you write down in class? Do you ever ask yourself, “What was that thing that my professor said while I was scrambling to write things down?” Are your notes unreadable, sad, and maybe even ugly?

Well, to put it simply, maybe you’re just not taking notes in an effective way. Here are some tips on how you can improve your retention through taking better notes

  1. 1. Take notes by hand

    Whether it's a one-subject notebook, a five-subject notebook, a journal, or even just loose leaf binder paper, you should write in what you want to write in. Just make sure to keep all your notes for all your separate classes together and in an easy-to-locate place. 

  2. 2. Use paper that lets you take notes how you want

    It's not very common to think about the paper that you take notes on, but it can make a big difference. Do you like blank paper? Lined paper? College ruled or wide ruled? Graph paper? Dot-grid paper? Some sort of paper combination?

  3. 3. Get colored pens

    It's proven that writing in color increases your ability to remember the things you write down. It's also a good way to spice up your notes and make them more pleasing to the eye. It's good to have at least two different colored pens for each set of notes; I normally use four. This color-coding technique can also help with flashcards. Using colors helps your brain associate the specific color with the specific notes you're writing. 

  4. 4. Make your own method

    When I was younger, I was taught that the proper note-taking method, or "best note-taking style" was Cornell notes. My teacher taught us how to take Cornell notes because supposedly that would be the way we were going to take notes in high school and college. However, I never used it after middle school and honestly hated it. There was so much unnecessary white space that drove me crazy. The summaries that came at the end of each page frustrated me even more, too. Why couldn't I just summarize at the end of the lecture or when I was done taking all of my notes? Today, I'm here to tell you that there's no right or wrong way to take notes. Just find the way that's most effective for you and make sure it's a method that'll set you up for personal success. 

  5. 5. Slow down or retake your notes later

    If you can't read your own handwriting from your class notes, it's definitely going to be harder to study them. Slow down in class; you don't have to write down everything your professor says. If your class happens to be very lecture-oriented and is therefore very "note-heavy", make some time after class to retake your notes so that you'll be able to read and study them with more ease in the future. 

  6. 6. Make your notes look aesthetically pleasing

    Wouldn't it be nice if our notes were so good that we just wanted to look at them...just to LOOK at them? Well, they can be! When you're picking the colors you wish to take notes in, create a color scheme. Making your notes aesthetically pleasing will make you want to review them, trust me. 

  7. 7. Don't take out your highlighter...unless you're reviewing

    Your colored pens have already "highlighted" what you need to highlight in class, so there isn't a point to highlighting when you're taking notes. However, when you're reviewing, it's a great idea to have that highlighter handy and at the ready. Highlight only the major points or things you think will be on exams; you don't want to go "highlight crazy". 

  8. 8. Annotate your notes when you're reviewing

    Have a pen out when you're going over your notes. This is the best time to write down things you remember from the lecture, jot down how you're going to remember something specific for an exam or add things that the professor didn't mention earlier that you read in the textbook. 

  9. 9. Review, review, review

    After you take notes, review them! Your notes are just dead notes if you don't actually plan on using them. They can help you write and format your study guides for future exams and are such a great study tool. 

Taking notes is one of the most effective ways to remember important content...and taking them effectively can help you remember even more. Have a great school year and happy note-taking!