I ntegrate all previous notes and readings.
  • Be prepared for the lecture. Don't go in "cold" and expect to understand the lecture.

  • Read the previous lecture notes and any assigned readings for the lecture. If possible, do this right before the lecture so that you can relate the ideas you hear in the lecture to the ideas in your previous lecture notes and readings.


Boy reviewing previous notes and reading.
S it close.
  • Sit as close to the teacher as possible.

  • Be sure that you can clearly see the chalkboard or screen if there are overheads, a Power Point presentation, or a computer screen used.
A student sitting close to his teacher.
W rite everything.
  • Teachers write down the most important things to be remembered, so write everything from the chalkboard or screen.

  • Write down the information the teacher gives when s/he pauses because it is expected that you will write this and learn it.
Writing down the most important things to remember.
A nalyze verbal, nonverbal, and body language cues.
  • Teachers send messages about the most important parts of their lectures by sending verbal, nonverbal, and body language cues.

  • Important verbal cues are key words ("important") or phrases ("primary causes of the war"). Listen for these words and write down the ideas being conveyed. Also, listen for lists ("the first characteristic") and write down all items that are listed.

  • Important nonverbal cues are conveyed by the emphasis that the teacher places on words and phrases by talking louder, by drawing out words, or by pausing. Whenever a teacher pauses, it is usually to allow students to write down ideas, so be sure to write these down.

  • Important body language cues are conveyed by the teacher's face, body movements, and posture. The teacher may lean forward or use hand motions to signal important information. Look at any change in emotion conveyed by the teacher's facial expression (e.g., when the teacher says "This was a tragic event," she may change her facial expression to show sadness).
A woman sending nonverbal cues.
M onitor your attention.
  • If you stop writing for a period of time, ask yourself why you haven't taken notes.

  • If your attention has lagged, change your position or look more closely at the teacher.

  • If you don't understand what the teacher is saying, try to write as much as possible down. After the lecture, read what you have written and compare it to other students' notes or to the teacher's notes to add or clarify points you had difficulty understanding.
A man thinking about why he hasn't taken any notes.
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