How to Listen and Take Notes

study-skillsMy method of paying attention in the past has been to take notes on anything being said.  I’d have pages of notes, but often I couldn’t make sense of them, or I wouldn’t be able to tell what was important.  And, finally, I wouldn’t know exactly what I wanted to do with the notes. to the rescue!  Read on to learn what I learned after sharpening my study skills at

Paying Attention

First, turn off, not down, not on vibrate, your devices.

Second, even if it’s an online presentation, try to lean in, nod your head at appropriate parts, and if it’s live, maintain eye contact.

Third, participate.  By this, I mean paraphrase the main point, repeat back to the speaker what you heard, and ask questions for clarity.  This is helpful in making sure you know what the main points are.

Fourth, listen for key phrases, like: “the thing to remember…” or “ my main point…” or, for students, “this will be on the test” and the direct, “pay attention”.

Fifth, don’t interrupt.  Let the presenter finish making the point.  If you do, it’s not just rude, but it also means that you don’t get to hear the whole point that’s being made.

Now for Note Taking

There’s a website that has templates of what I’m describing here, which is the Cornell Note Taking System.  Look here:

Here’s how it works:

Leave a few inches off the bottom of your page blank- draw a line across the bottom.

Indent your notes a couple inches, to leave a nice big left hand margin.  Draw a vertical line from the top of the page to the horizontal line at the bottom, mentioned above.

Write your subject matter in the upper right hand corner.

Take detailed notes on the right hand side of the page.  Details include keywords and phrases, not full sentences, your own shorthand and abbreviations.  Only write what is necessary.  Skip lines between ideas.

Follow Through

Within 24 hours, go through your detailed notes and pull out the main points. Write them in the left hand column.

Summarize the information, decide what to do next, assign who does what and when, and put all that information at the bottom of your note taking page.

If you want to remember the information, review it several times a week.  The more you review, the better you’ll remember.

If you’d like more detail, go to, and search for “study skills.”




Author: Michelle Harvey

Michelle spent many years as special librarian- serving the business community. She is the mother of three, all of whom have very different learning styles, and has been homeschooling since 2010. During that time, she has overseen the raising of chickens, keeping bees, and loving a Sheltland Sheepdog.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s