Note-taking can be a useful comprehension-building and memory-building technique, if it’s done “consciously”, or it can be a distraction if it’s done randomly.
By consciously, I mean used as an intentional process of “capturing” cues from what you’re listening to and then – immediately or shortly after listening – “creating” the personal meaning you want to take away from what you have captured. You may well be able to capture-and-create without note-taking (most of us do this all day long), but note-taking can make the process more reliable and more permanent.
Here’s the technique:
On a sheet of paper – or in a computer file — draw a single vertical line to make two columns. Left = Capture, Right = Create.
While you are listening, take notes – key words, phrases, or ideas – ONLY on the left side.
Topic: purpose of note-taking Capture what you want to remember
Paraphrase: in your own words Evaluate: This is interesting because…
two phases of note-taking: capturing and creating
reviewing and “reworking” notes is essential for retention
Michael Rost, principal author of Pearson English Interactive, has been active in the areas of language teaching, learning technology and language acquisition research for over 25 years. His interest in bilingualism and language education began in the Peace Corps in West Africa and was fuelled during his 10 years as an educator in Japan and extensive touring as a lecturer in East Asia and Latin America. Formerly on the faculty of the TESOL programs at Temple University and the University of California, Berkeley, Michael now works as an independent researcher, author, and speaker based in San Francisco.