Note-taking forever?! on the web-site for ESL teachers and learners from a German point of view
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Taking notes forever?!
      1. General ideas
Your teachers often ask you to take notes. You say that this is something you don't like at all. Why is that? Because you don't know how to take notes and why you should take them although you take notes all the time. You don't think so?   Well, let's take an example:
You have watched a tennis match on TV, but your friend hasn't. So he/she is curious to know:

Who won?
How many sets did he/she need?
What were the results of the different sets?
When did the winner have the first break?
Was he/she in good form?
Was it a good match?

You can answer all your friend's questions. You didn't realize up to now that you took notes, i.e. that you had stored all these pieces of information, but you had simply remembered, because you had followed the match with enthusiasm. You didn't need a sheet of paper and a pencil to write down the most important facts so that you could recall the details.

But you are not always so interested in news that you can remember the details after a while. Sometimes you must remember whether you like it or not . So it's good to practise the skill of taking notes. With it you can get a survey, you help your memory and you practise summing up.
 

      2. First step: Separate the important from the unimportant /Skimming

      Perhaps you haven't still noticed how many different ways there are of taking notes, but there are a lot you have already done without knowing. Before pointing out some of the ways of taking notes I want you to accept one simple rule:
      The more different facts or persons or activities or dates or places or reasons there may be found in a spoken or written text, the more notes you must take before your inner eye or in writing.

      The reason is simple: Your brain has to do a lot of other activities apart from remembering facts. So why not try to help it?

      The first thing you've got to do and you normally do is:
       

Separate gold from trash!  
    What does this mean? Perhaps you can find out yourself by the following example:

    "Hi, I'm ....
    My...has a .....not far from...
    I should be at ....today, but I have to ....my...to .... the .... in
    My ... ...."

    You have got 4 sentences with 23 words, only 12 words are missing. What is this statement about?
    If you have a closer look at the gaps you can find that you can say something about the missing words:

    "Hi, I'm (name of the speaker)
    My (person) has a (thing) not far from (place)
    I should be at (name of a place or institution.) today, but I have to (activity)my(person) to (activity) the (thing) in.
    My (person)(activity)."

    Can you tell the statement now?

    It may run as follows:

    "Hi, I'm Robot 49XY.
    My spaceship has a break not far from Venus.
    I should be at Jupiter today, but I have to load my batteries to take the energy in.
    My commander rages."

    Or:

    "Hi, I'm Paul Christiansen.
    My family has a farm not far from Seattle.
    I should be at school today, but I have to help my mom to get the hay in.
    My teacher understands."

    Or:

    Sebastian Fink, class 8d of the Clemens-Brentano-Realschule, Koblenz, found the following solution:
    "Hi, I'm C3PO. My master has a spaceship not far from Naboo. I should be in repair today, but I have to help my master to get the credits in. R2D2 understands."

    Why is it possible to get three completely different texts out of 23 words with only 12 words missing?

    The fact is that there are two different kinds of words. In order to make this clear I want you to see construction workers building a house. They need two different materials for that: cement or mortar and building stones or bricks.

    If you take mortar only you can't get a certain form because it flows wherever there is a way. It's the stones that give the house the shape.

    Engin Göher, class 8d of the Clemens-Brentano-Realschule,  Koblenz,
    Engin's self-portrait
    made the following drawing:

        So there are certain words which function like mortar (so-called functional words) and others which bear shape or meaning (so-called key-words) which open the lock to your understanding and memory. Among the key-words there are nouns, verbs, negatives, numbers and some adjectives or adverbs.

        So you will find a lot of functional words in the example above.
        It's easier for you to reconstruct a statement out of the following key-words that you have underlined in a text:

        Sarah Rosenbaum

        moved -->Denver,Colorado
        Dad - job - computer company
        before - Baltimore
        hobby - music - cello + guitar (bad) : country group
        better > Mom - birthday

        Now try to retell this statement.

        So when you want to remember the contents of a conversation, news, statement, a film or a story the first task is to separate key-words from functional words:
        The question is what to keep and what to leave.

        3. Second step: Find an order

    1. Adventure stories
    WHO/WHAT
    DID
    WHAT
    WHERE
    WHEN
    WHY?
    PERSONS/
    THINGS
    ACTIVITIES
    FACTS
    PLACES
    DATES
    REASONS
               
               
               
               

     
    2. Arguments
    FIRST  
    SECOND  
    THIRD  
    NEXT  
    THEN  
    LAST  

     
    3. Curriculum vitae or historical events (Timeline display)
    12 years ago my uncle came over from Calcutta
    First  
    For a year  
    Then  
    Two years later  
    After three years  
    Today  

     
    4. Interviews or discussions or comparing advertisements (The Gate)
    Arguments
    Lake Mono is in danger
    Topics: Mr Miller Mrs Smith Miss Taylor Mrs Kent Mr Robs
    Water          
    Birds          
    People          
    Electricity          
    Money          

     
    5. headlines to some paragraphs
    Dream to be the best in something
    Dream of becoming the best body-builder in the world
    (Dream of being a winner)
    Dream of being listened to
    Dream of going to America
    Dream of becoming a businessman
    (Dream of achieving things)
    (Dream of making up another dream)

    6. The circle

    (Click here for a completed version
    and here for the complete "Reading comprehension text"The pilot's choice"

    1st -
    2nd -
    3rd -
    --> it follows
    ==> is transformed into
    - next point
    <--> is the opposite of
    = is the same as
    + another one, positive
    - another one, negative
    ? unclear, doubtful
    ! You are so right
    Hierarchical order

    masters
     
    superior
     
    generic
    opinion or ideology
    ways or aims
    headings or paragraphs
    terms
     
     
       ideas
         
    Order 
     
     steps
       
       
     
     sentences
     
     
    slaves
       
     
     words
     
    subordinate
         
     

    After you've read this text about taking notes you should be able to make notes on "The fine art of taking notes". Please do so.
     You may still ask what notes are good for. Well, you can do many things with them, i.e. writing a report or retelling a story or giving a summary or simply understanding what other people have said or written so that you are not a 'dumb jerk' when you are speaking to your friends, your parents, your teachers or anyone else.
    Good luck and a lot of good notes. This may be the only case where good notes may also mean good marks.

    Ilka Reif and Kerstin Brauer found the following explanation 


    <Click here and you will always get back to the table of contents>
    Table of Contents
    Taking notes forever?! HOMEback to the homepagePAGE back to the previous page back to
    Standards in
    Reading Comprehension
    go on to
    Note taking:
    A variation
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