34Note-taking in EAP

by Danny K. Howard, EAP Associate Director

In my April 15, 2004 article, I wrote about note-taking. However, in the article I only focused on fun note-taking practice with TV or radio programs, and I did not give an example. Now that our Head Start Program and new school year are coming in February and April, I want to explain how to do this at NIC and at colleges and universities. I explained how you could practice taking notes at home. Now let’s look at an academic lecture and learn what your notes should look like when listen to it.

Imagine that your Health teacher is giving a lecture like this:

“OK, today we will learn about three effective ways to stay healthy. There are many ways to stay healthy, but most experts feel that these three pieces of advice are best for people to follow. To begin with, regular exercise is absolutely necessary to stay healthy. A daily routine of at least 30 minutes a day is suggested for most people. Light exercise is recommended for people with health problems or for those who are over the age of 60. Among the best type of exercise is for the heart. Experts recommend exercises like walking, jogging, or aerobics for this. Next, people should eat the right types of foods in smaller amounts. Many people falsely think eating a small amount is important. But actually, it’s not how much you eat that is a problem. The problem is WHAT you eat! For example, French fries might seem like a light snack, especially if you order a small size. But they have many calories. They can make you gain a lot of weight, and the oil is bad for your heart. Try to include a lot of vegetables and avoid foods cooked in heavy oil. If you use oil for cooking, use olive oil. That is best. Finally, people should always drink plenty of water during the day. Water helps take fat out of your body! Instead of drinking a large amount of water only with meals, you should drink small amounts all day long. Try to drink 8-12 glasses per day. Of course, try to drink bottled water instead of tap water. Many bottled waters have minerals in them. These are better. Not only will you stay healthy, but your skin will look fresh, as well. Your health is the most important thing that you own. So take good care of it!”

Now, believe it or not, but that was only about 2 minutes of note-taking!!! At NIC, you will have to take notes for 10 minutes or more. At a university, you will have to take notes for even longer! So this is really good practice for you. 

Taking the Notes

Now, when you take notes, again you should do three very important things!

  1. Get the main ideas and some examples.
    • You should try to write down the main ideas and some examples of each one.
    • Listen for clues when you take notes. For example, the Health teacher above told you: “We will learn about three effective ways to stay healthy.” So you should listen for 3 ways when you take notes and get examples of each one! 
  2. Write neatly. 
    • Remember, at NIC you must use your notes to study from later. So it is important to be able to understand what you wrote.
  3. Organize your notes in a good outline form
    • Never write complete sentences and don’t worry about grammar or spelling. 
    • Use abbreviations and symbols to save time: “exercise”→ ex. or “and”→&
    • Main ideas should be on the left and details moved to the right (like below)

This (above) is a good example of the type of notes that you will take at NIC. Taking notes requires a lot of practice. But if you know the information above, you will be in great shape for Head Start or for the new school year in April. Good luck to you all!