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Bridges Blog Series: Next Steps November, 2021

Next Steps November: Note-taking

It’s November, and the leaves aren’t the only things changing. We settled into the school routine, and the holiday season is gearing up. November is a great time to create bridges between our current realities and the futures we seek, so these are the topics we will explore this month:

  • November 2: Navigating (Your Future)
  • November 9: Networking
  • November 16: Niche (Finding Yours)
  • November 23: Note-taking
  • November 30: Nurturing (Yourself)

In this fourth installment of our “Next Steps November” series, we discuss Note-taking – why it is important and how to make it a strength for you.

What is Note-taking?

Note-taking can exist in many forms. For the purpose of this Free Bridges Transition Tip, Note-taking is the process of:

  • Determining what information is important
  • Capturing that information efficiently and effectively
  • Ensuring that you will be able to access your notes whenever you want to do so

Why is Note-taking Important?

Note-taking provides individuals with a tool to access important information long after the information is no longer being presented. Some individuals can memorize information well, but note-taking is still an important skill for them because the raw content of the information is only part of the picture. Facts and data are great to have, but the ability to compare and contrast information grows more and more important throughout our school years and into adulthood. By adding note-taking to your skillset, you increase the accuracy of your memory recollection and you provide yourself an efficient tool to discern relationships between facts and figures.

Note-taking can also help pay attention to presentations and improve your memorization process. The very act of taking notes engages you with the presentation, and your memory of the presentation can be triggered when reviewing the notes you have taken. Sadly, neither of these benefits are available by reviewing notes other people took.

How Should I Take Notes?

Note-taking strategies can vary based on individual strengths and needs as well as on the purpose of the note-taking, itself. Here are some examples:

Do your homework

Typically, in a classroom setting, there is a topic for the lesson of the day. You may have been assigned reading to do, and there may be an outline of the lecture or, at least, a vocabulary list.

  • As you read assigned passages for homework, make note of headings, sub-headings, and vocabulary words.
  • Put these into an electronic file that you can use during the upcoming lecture.
  • This will help you organize your notes and allow you to make certain that your spelling is correct (so that you may focus on the lecture and not on spelling).

Use any resources provided before the presentation

Whether in school, on the job, or at another kind of presentation, there are often materials used during the presentation (like PowerPoint slides) or handed out at the presentation (like guided notes, outlines, etc.).

  • Before the presentation, politely request accessible electronic versions of all materials used during the presentation.
  • Even if you cannot get accessible electronic versions, get what you can. Please feel free to contact the Free Bridges Helpdesk for tools and strategies to make inaccessible paper or electronic documents accessible for you.
  • Review these materials; they will show you the important highlights of the presentation.
  • Consider creating a note-taking template based on the materials. Using accessible electronic documents, you can create the presentation outline. By using this document as an outline, you can better focus on the presentation, and you should have more time to take any additional notes you need (and to highlight important parts of the outline).

Listen for clues of importance

Speakers often use verbal and visual clues to stress the importance of certain parts of their presentations. For the visual clues, consider asking the speaker to also include verbal clues (such as: “I am pointing to this word.” “I am underlining this word.” “This word is blinking on the PowerPoint.” Here are some verbal clues that a word or phrase is important:

  • Repetition
  • Change of voice (pitch, tone, etc.)
  • Raising one’s voice
  • Speaking more slowly

How Do I Know If I Am Taking Notes Well?

This is a great question, and it will take time to answer. The key to good note-taking is that it works for you. In addition to asking your peers, teachers, and/or parents about the quality of your note-taking, consider whether your notes are helping you achieve your goals:

  • When you study for tests, does the information in your notes make sense?
  • Do tests or quizzes contain items that are unfamiliar to you?
  • Are you feeling more confident about the subject?

Where Can I Find Out More?

The professionals at the Free Bridges Helpdesk eagerly await the opportunity to serve you. Please feel free to contact us anytime, including holidays and weekends. We are here to support you!

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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