Are you confident in your note-taking skills for Year 9 English? It is important that you master this skill in the early years of High School to build a healthy habit. In this article, we will show you how to write English notes for Year 9 that will help you nail your assessments.
Note-taking is the process of recording down information.
Your notes are meant to be concise and summarised information, not deep and complex paragraphs that run for pages.
In Year 9 English, you need to learn how to take effective notes in class and notes based on your texts.
The importance of making notes
It is easy to dismiss the importance of writing notes, especially in the early years of High School. You might think that it is a waste of time or that you can just revise your class books before exams.
However, note-taking has more benefits than you think.
At Matrix, students are taught a process to understand and analyse texts.
Writing notes help you understand your text better, and prepare you for the writing process. Let’s look at the benefits in more detail.
Note taking is basically recording down information. So why is this such an important step?
Active engagement: When you take notes, you need to think, summarise and find key points. This means that you can’t just activate airplane mode in class or when you’re reading your English text, because you won’t be able to take effective notes. This leads to…
Better understanding: When you actively engage in class and with your texts, you are continually taking in new information and ideas, linking it to your previous knowledge. This means that you will have a better understanding of your texts and ideas.
Organise information: You will always be given more information than necessary, whether this is prescribed text or a class dicussion. That’s why you need to take notes! Note-taking allows you to categorise, organise and summarise large chunks of information, so you can easily access it later!
Supporting your memory
The key to memorising information is UNDERSTANDING and REPETITION.
Let’s see how repetition helps you remember your content.
When you write notes, you are revisiting what you already learned.
Spaced repetition is the process of revisiting your content after some time – whether it be a day, or a few months – to better remember your information and extend your knowledge.
This means that every time you revisit your notes and update them, you are slowly putting it into your long term memory!
Assisting the writing process
Having notes prepared will make it A LOT easier to do your assignments and exams!
Imagine having to write an essay by next week, and you have to reread your whole novel to find techniques because you don’t have notes!
It would be a nightmare!
You see, notes can help your writing process in a number of ways. You can:
Easily find techniques and analysis to prepare for your assignments and assessments.
Build connections between ideas and texts. When you write notes, you are critically thinking about your texts and seeing connections between different ideas. This will help with formulating arguments.
Have a better understanding of ideas and themes. Remember, when you actively engage with your text in your note-taking process, you are also improving your understanding of it. This means that you can critically analyse your text in depth.
How to write English notes for Year 9 – step-by-step
In High School English, you will find that you have to take notes for different purposes:
Class notes based on class discussions and what your teachers discuss
Home notes where you dissect a text and analyse it
Let’s go through both methods.
Note-taking in class
1. Initial notes
These are the notes that you take in class!
Always actively engage in class discussions. Listen, understand and share!
Write down important statements and keywords.
Take note of difficult or confusing concepts, or things that you don’t fully understand. This way, you can go over them later to solidify your understanding or ask for help.
<li”>Use shorthands and symbols to write faster (eg. without = w/out). Make sure you remember them or it will make revising more difficult. To prevent this, write a key in your margin.
DON’T write everythingdown that is said in class! Be smart and critical about what you think is important.
Let’s look at an example.
This is what class notes should look like. Rough but clear.
Let’s examine this:
This student has chosen to set out their notes in a dotpoint form to record information. Their titles and subheadings are organised around acts and scenes in the play, Macbeth.
Notice how the student doesn’t attempt to write full sentences. Instead, they use keywords and key statements to remind them of the content.
The student has also used shorthands to write faster. (eg. capt. = captain, & = and)
They also asterisked (*) difficult concepts and reminded themselves to return to these.
Arrows and boxes are also used to show a flow of ideas and highlight important notes. Feel free to use any visual cues that will help you better understand your information.
Notice how the student highlighted the techniques. You can choose to highlight anything that seems important. You can also colour code your highlighting.
Just remember, your class notes don’t need to look perfect.
Instead, make sure that you have all the important information written down.
When you go home, you should always read over your notes and elaborate on your knowledge.
Rewrite/retype your class notes. This will make your notes more organised and legible. However, you are WASTING TIME if this is all you do…
You need to flesh out your notes. This means filling in any missing gaps in your notes. Define keywords that you are unsure of. Answer questions. Add more information and depth about what you discussed in class.
Let’s have a look at an example.
These notes are very similar to the class notes. However, we can see straight away that it is just a copy and paste. That would just be a waste of time because copying and pasting doesn’t help you remember information.
Let’s further examine these notes. The student:
Continued to sort their notes by acts and scenes. However, they also began to categorise themes for each piece of textual evidence using colour codes. This will be useful when constructing essays.
Went back to their text and added brief outlines of the events for each evidence. This ensures that they have context for their information when revising.
Found full and accurate quotes. They even indicated which line it was found in. This will be useful when selecting textual examples for your English assignments.
Further analysed the evidence. This shows that they thought about their content instead of simply copying and pasting class notes.
Researched and answered their queries. If there are any concepts or points that you aren’t 100% sure about, research or ask for help. Use this time to fill in any missing gaps before its too late (eg. the night before your exam).
3. Final notes
These notes are a result of multiple revisions and updates.
Some important rules for final notes are to:
Continue fleshing out ideas and extending them.
Organise your notes by ideas/themes. This can be easily rearranged on a laptop or loose-leaf paper notes. However, if your notes are in a book, you can use colour-coded tabs to categorise them.
Research anything you aren’t sure about.
You can merge your class notes with your home notes to create a comprehensive set of notes. However, make sure that they are categorised correctly or it will just be more confusing.
Note-taking for textual analysis
We will discuss textual analysis in our next article, Textual Analysis in Year 9. But before you analyse your texts, you must know how to document your findings.
Let’s see how you should go about this.
1. Initial notes
These are notes that you make in the first reading of your text. You aim is to understand what is happening in the text.
Write down brief notes about the text. This includes plot, character arcs, themes and ideas.
Jot down your thoughts about the text.
Take note of what you think the text means.
Here’s an example.
Notice how everything is brief and rough. Your first reading is about understanding the text as a whole, not nitpicking it for techniques.
Let’s see what the student did. In their notes, they’ve:
Given a brief overview of the plot
Noted important characters and character type
Jotted down their thoughts about what the text means
These notes are made in your second reading. Your aim is to find meaning in the text.
Note keyevents, scenes or chapters
Take note of important sentences or paragraphs
Jot down key techniques and examples
Let’s see what this looks like:
You can choose to either write your 2nd reading notes on a new sheet or update your initial notes.
This student chose to update theirs. So, let’s see what they did.
Identified key scenes in red. See how they underlined existing scenes and noted any other important scenes. This means that they can go return to these events and further analyse them in the subsequent readings.
Identified holistic techniques or examples. Jot down any techniques that you immediately recognise, especially if they are carried out throughout the whole text.
Updated their thoughts and opinions on what the text means. You should always be extending on what you’ve written down because every time you re-read a text, you gain new perspectives.
3. Final notes
These notes are made in your third and subsequent readings. This is where you go into detail and nitpick the text. You can choose to type these or handwrite your notes.
Organise your notes around themes and ideas.
Return and analyse key scenes.
Analyse the techniques and link it to ideas.
Take note of the hierarchy of techniques. Which one is more effective to use in essays? Think higher order techniques.
Research anything you aren’t sure about
Always revisit your notes and continue to build them.
There are many ways that you can organise your notes. Here is a brief overview of each some methods:
Outlining: Organising your points using titles, subheadings and dot points.
Here, the student has organised their analysis according to each scene and highlighted the theme.
It is important that your notes clearly show the themes and ideas because this makes writing preparation a lot easier.
Tabulated information: Organising your notes in a table format.
This is an example of tabulated notes.
This student has organised their information according to ideas, technique, analysis and example. You can use a variety of formats to write tabulated notes. Choose one that works best for you.
Mindmaps and visual notes: Writing your notes out using a mindmap, diagrams, flow charts or any other visual way.
This is an example of a mindmap.
You can make mindmaps of anything; an idea that stems out to examples, a theme with smaller ideas etc.
This student has created a mindmap in response to an assignment question. They focused on the keywords of the question and have smaller ideas stemming from it. They then give a brief explanation and examples.
What are textual analysis skills like?
Now that you know how to write effective study notes, let’s learn another important skill. Textual analysis!
In Part 2: Textual Analysis in Year 9, you will learn how to analyse texts, understand them, and critically analyse them.