Note-taking is vital in exam success, the process helps facilitate an easy transfer of information into long term memory. Furthermore, the act of writing down information rather than passively reading helps aid students in comprehending heavy content. Research has found that students who take notes have seen better exam scores compared to when they did not, with some having their grades increase by a full letter.
If your child is not engaging in note-taking, it may be good to start encouraging them to do so.
Digital vs Physical notes?
Given the prevalence of technology, your child might find taking notes digitally on a computer or Ipad their preferred method of note-taking. But which is better? Research still has not arrived at a concrete answer.
Taking notes digitally will give your child access to a wide array of digital tools that may make the learning process easier and more fun. For example, tools to format and annotate their textbooks or the ability to colour and draw with any colour pen they could think of. If your child requires more motivation to study, a digital device may be a good motivator. Additionally, if they struggle with illegible handwriting, this might be a more efficient way for note-taking.
On the flip side, when unsupervised, they may use the digital device for playing games or other unproductive activities. Some parents also share the concern of typing being less effective in helping their child in the retention of content. While an experiment on active recall using a list of vocabulary words has found that the psychomotor act of writing did help the participants in memory, it is important to take note of your child’s learning style and what may be the best motivator for them.
Don’t write everything down
A popular phrase, “Less is More” is also applicable in this case. Ensure your child is not just copying every single word from the textbook and is rather making concise notes based on their understanding. For example, when writing down Science notes, focus on the main points of each chapter, have them write down key words and phrases that will be necessary in the exam. Reviewing the learning objectives of each chapter will allow you to pick out what are the most important elements of the work. Cross reference that with your child’s notes to ensure they’ve written down the key learning points in their notes.
TLDR: What’s important to include?
- Key points, concepts, and formulas
- Definitions, examples (in their own words), and relevant diagrams
- References to previous chapters that link the work together
Make it your own
Encourage your child to rephrase certain content into their own words. Writing things in a way that makes sense to them will enhance their understanding of the topic.
- Remove “complicated” jargon
- Relating the content to their personal experiences will aid in active recall
Make it fun
Having your child colour code their notes with highlighters and marker pens will not only allow for better organised notes but make the process a lot more enjoyable. Furthermore, using colour not only helps establish connections between different concepts but also enhances cognitive engagement.
Structuring ideas through drawing diagrams or mind mapping can help break up large chunks of texts and is a more innovative way of note-taking.
Keep it organised
If your child haphazardly jots down content without care, it will negate the advantages of note-taking. Ensure notes are well organised so they can be referenced before exams as a form of revision. Use sticky tabs to divide up content with colour, it will also make navigating notes much easier.
How to organise?
- By subject
- By chapter
- By lesson objectives
- By difficulty
Note-taking, contrary to popular belief, is also a skill that takes time to cultivate. If your child can create effective notes that work well for them they will be halfway to achieving their dream PSLE score.
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