Have you been practicing your note-taking skills for English? In this post, we will go through the importance of writing English notes in Year 10, show you how to develop your notes and different strategies you can use to write notes.
Why are good English notes important?
It is important that you are continually developing your note taking skills and turning it into a habit, especially for English.
Let’s go through the reasons why.
Why make notes
Writing notes is not only useful in school, but it is an important lifelong skill. They have so many benefits that will aid you outside of school.
Making notes will:
- Build organisational skills. Writing notes requires you to manage your time and dedicate a few hours every week to update your notes. You also need to sort out your information into different categories that will help you understand and find the information.
- Boosts focus and attention span. You have to actively engage and pay attention in class, or to your text as you read it, to know exactly what is important to remember.
- Improve your critical thinking skills. Note taking requires you to understand the information given to you and to decide what is important and what is not.
- Supports your memory and retention. When writing notes become a habit, revising over content also becomes a habit. With more revisions, you are able to remember the content better.
How notes support your learning
Writing English notes will:
- Remind you of your content. You can’t possibly remember every class discussion or every key technique in your text. Having notes will trigger your memory of what you know.
- Ensure that you are organised and prepared for your exams. You don’t need to scramble through your class book and English text because you will have everything you need in one place.
- Improve your understanding of the texts and themes. When you write notes, you are continuously thinking about how different ideas and techniques link to one another. You also have new findings each time you revise your text.
Writing notes is part of the first three steps, comprehension. They are also essential preparation you for the final 4 steps, writing.
How to make spectacular English notes in Year 10 – step by step
Writing English notes is an ongoing process that you will continue to develop throughout the year. Good English notes require numerous revisions and updates.
Let’s take a look at the four steps to making great English notes in Year 10.
Step 1. Decide what notes to make in class
It is important that you don’t write everything down your teacher says.
You won’t be able to keep up and you will have too much unnecessary information.
Instead, you should actively listen in class, try to understand the information and only write down:
- Key statements or key words.
- Brief, summarised information.
- Important or interesting points.
- Complex ideas that you want to flesh out.
- Anything you are unsure of and need to return to.
- Anything that your teacher specified was important.
Good notes are the key to good results!
Step 2. Choose what to note down in your reading
Like your class notes, you need to be selective of what you are writing into your English notes.
These are some things you should take note of when you are reading your text:
- Overall plot/narrative arc.
- Key characters and a brief description that links to the themes.
- Themes and ideas.
- Your thoughts and perspectives on the text
- Techniques, examples and brief analysis.
- Connection between textual evidence and theme.
Step 3. Collate your notes
Now that you have both your class and home notes, you need to collate them.
Remember, if you have any additional research, you should also add them into your notes. It is recommended that you search about your text (eg. context of author, context of text etc.) to have a deeper understanding of the meanings and purposes in your text.
By putting your English notes together into one document, it will be easier look through your notes and find what you need.
So how do we do this?
- Organise your information into categories (eg. if you have class and home notes on fate, put them all under that subtitle)
- If there are double ups, don’t just ignore it. Look at both notes, and see if one side has additional information. Merge them.
- Also, don’t just blindly copy and paste your notes into a new document. Make sure that you actively go through the information and sort out what is important and how it links to each other.
- Write down important information that you found in your additional research where appropriate.
Step 4. Produce exam study notes
You don’t want to rest on your laurels.
Rather than try and run all year off one set of study notes, you need to produce a more streamlined version to prep for your exams.
Here are some tips you need to know before you produce your study notes:
- There is no point making organised, beautiful and perfect study notes if you don’t understand it. Make sure that you know and understand your content and that your notes only serve as a reminder of your content.
- You need to know how to navigate and find your information. Make sure that your notes are organised and clearly categorised.
- Your notes should be brief and concise. They are not textbooks, they are summaries.
The steps above will help you better comprehend your text and make sure you ace your next assessment!
Different strategies for making brilliant notes
There are many different ways to produce English notes.
Different people prefer different note-taking methods. And different note-taking purposes can influence which strategy you use.
Don’t feel as though you need to stick to one method. You can choose to use an outline method for class notes, and use tabulated notes when you do a comparison between texts.
Pick the note taking method that works for you and your purpose.
Let’s look at a few different strategies:
This is one of the most common and simple note-taking strategies.
How does it work?
Outlined notes are structured in a hierarchical order. There are titles, subtitles, dot points and sub-dot points where you can have more depth.
For English, you can structure your notes based on ideas and themes or chapters and acts.
Just remember that you still need to identify themes and ideas if you structure your notes based on chapters or acts.
Here is a SAMPLE structure of outlined notes.
You can format these in any way that you think will help you.
- Simple and easy to write, especially if you are quickly writing down what the teacher is saying. You don’t need to give much thought about how to organise it because everything flows from each other.
- Clearly organised and structured.
- Easy to identify key ideas and themes
- It’s hard to organise information when there is no clear structure.
- When handwriting, there is limited space to add information.
- You might fall in the trap of overwriting. Remember to keep less than 6 dot points or sub-dot points for each point.
Let’s examine these notes on Golding’s Lord of the Flies.
- This student organised their notes according to themes (eg. Civilisation vs Savagery).
- Notice how the information in the dot points and sub-dot points directly relate to the title.
- This student has a very clear structure. The student identified the example in the first dot point, before explaining the context and technique in the sub-dot points. They then use sub-sub dot points to analyse the technique.
- See how there are no long-winded sentences. Notes are meant to be brief and concise while also being informative.
Tabulated notes organise information in a table format.
How does it work?
Tabulated notes use columns and rows to categorise information.
When writing English notes, you can choose to sort your information in a variety of ways:
- Idea -> Technique -> Example -> Analysis
- Two columns that compare two texts
- Two columns, where the first contains all the areas of exploration (eg. context, meaning, techniques, questions…) and the second has the details
- AND MANY MORE!
You should organise your tables so they will help you understand your English texts better.
- Easy to track and see information
- Good for comparative studies.
- Precise, categorised information
- Tables can be too precise. Sometimes there are pieces of information that you can’t categorise.
- Not very useful for class notes. You need to know the exact structure to organise your information.
- The amount of information in the table might not be well distributed, so you might have large amounts of blank space in some grids and some that are filled.
This table looks at Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’.
This student categorised their information by breaking down the analysis process.
- Notice how easy it is to find a specific piece of information.
- Also, the notes are brief and concise but also informative.
Visual notes are based on visual elements.
How does it work?
Visual notes are notes that presents the information through images, symbols, boxes, charts and other visual elements.
This does not mean that there aren’t any words on the page… there are.
One bonus of visual notes is that when you write you are more likely to remember the information because you handwrite them.
Instead, these notes organise the information to make it look more appealing and use visual elements to compliment the words.
- Useful for visual learners who recall information visually.
- Improves memory and retention of information because the students are engaging with multiple senses.
- Helps students build connection between ideas and techniques because they are actively engaging and thinking creatively about the text.
- Shows the flow of ideas or arguments
- Quick access of information. They are usually brief reviews.
- This method will not be useful if you are still confused about your content. It is brief and doesn’t help you expand your understanding.
- If you have too much information, it can become too confusing to navigate and defeats the purpose.
- Can be time-consuming. It is not useful if you spend more time making your notes look visually appealing than understanding and summarising your text!
- See how visual notes provide a quick overview of information.
- The student has also presented a flow of ideas. They found techniques that relate to the theme of civilisation and savagery and linked them both to Golding’s message.
A mindmap is a type of visual note.
How does it work?
Mindmaps basically consists of a centre bubble, with related points stemming off the centre bubble. You often use keywords or brief sentences when using a mindmap.
The centre bubble can consist of:
- Assessment question
- AND SO MUCH MORE.
- Good for visual learners.
- Useful when you are trying to sort out ideas and arguments.
- See connections between ideas, themes and/or techniques.
- Briefly summarises the content.
- Quick and easy access.
- Can become too confusing if there is too much information
- Cannot go into depth because there is limited space.
- Here we can see that the student examined different themes in the text.
- They provided examples, techniques, and very brief analysis.
- Notice how keywords and phrases are used. Mindmaps are very concise and only serve as a visual overview
- You can also see the flow of ideas and how the techniques relate to the themes.
Using your notes
Always go over your notes again, whether it be the next day or a few months later. Your learning is all about repetition, repetition, and repetition.
Don’t just write your notes and never return to them.
From notes to assignment
You have to make sure that you are constantly updating your notes and extending your knowledge. This is because…
having well prepared and organised notes will make your assignment preparation so much more easy.
Instead of stressing out, and flipping through 300 pages worth of text, you have a document with all the important techniques and key scenes.
Use your notes to develop your arguments, find techniques and see how they link to the ideas and themes.
Then, make a scaffold and plan out your response.
Having a good set of English notes will aid you in the final steps to analysing your texts.
Let’s start analysing texts
Now that you know how to write good English notes, let’s put into practice.
In Part 2, Textual Analysis in Year 10, we will go through how textual analysis differs in Year 10 and what new things you must get your head around.
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