There are numerous strategies for note-taking, and some vary based on genre, content, or length of reading, they all share a similar purpose: to make a reader think more deeply about the writing, to make them ask questions, probe further, and gain greater comprehension of what they’ve read.
Taking notes reminds us of noteworthy passages, allows us to recall questions we had while reading it, reminds us to look up words or names we don’t recognize, and to return our thoughts again to broader themes and finer nuances we might have only glanced at during the first pass. The act of taking notes helps us remember what we’ve read better and is for our benefit, not those of fellow classmates or people we wish to impress.
For the purposes of Reading Selections, note taking shouldn’t become a part-time job. During the first reading of the pieces, relax into the stories and essays. Let yourself be carried off, if need be. Keep a pencil, pen, or highlighter nearby if you should need to mark something right now! and not wish to forget a thought.
On the second reading, set yourself to the task of reviewing what you’d read the first time. Highlight or underline anything that grabbed your attention. Write questions or short commentary in the margins. Mark words or phrases you’re not familiar with to look up. You don’t need to make flash cards, or write everything out on a separate sheet of paper, unless you feel it’s the best method for you.
For Reading Selections, you only need casual note taking that will allow you to 1) complete your project and discuss its relation to the reading, 2) provide you with points to broach during discussion time after projects, whether those are questions you wish to ask the group, a connection between the reading and something else, or a topic you wish to debate.
Remember, our time to present projects and discuss readings is somewhat limited, but feel free to bring up what you think is noteworthy about and relevant to our readings.
Some day you might need to take more in-depth notes or might wish to try alternative styles of note taking. Here are a few online resources to look at.
- Cornell College: How to Read Closely: Making Sense Out of Novels
- Mrs. Knight’s Online Classroom: How to Take Notes for a Short Story
- MIT: Effective Reading and Note-Taking
- BrazenBlog: 11 Ways to Take Notes While Reading
Remember, taking notes is all about what you need to help you recall what you’ve read and be able to develop a deeper understanding of it. The pieces are yours to use as you see fit. Use different colors of highlighters, sketch images that come to mind, stick colored tabs to pages to help you find things, do whatever works best for you, and don’t be afraid to experiment if the notes you’re taking aren’t working.
Feel free to share in comments any others you find useful to how you learn.