Effective Listening and Note-taking

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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. NOTETAKING 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. 

Before Class: 

  • 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 notetaking: 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 Notetaking.

  • 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:

o a speaker’s appearance or mannerisms.
o 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. 

Periodically (Review)

  • 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. 

 

University Counseling Service, The University of Iowa, 3223 Westlawn S, 52242-1100, 319-335-7294