How to Take Perfect Notes in English Class

Even though English is the language that we use every day, classes on this subject can be quite complex. The study of English Language Arts focuses on explaining the inner workings of the language and discovering different techniques to use when weaving our words into writing. Since this subject is so multifaceted, it may be difficult to know where to start when writing your notes. That is why we’ve put together five tips to help you write practical and valuable notes specifically for English class.

Understand the Focus of the Course

There are typically two types of English classes: grammar-based and writing-based. Grammar classes tend to focus on learning different grammar rules. Think concepts such as sentence structure, punctuation, and subject-verb relationships. Writing classes, on the other hand, place more emphasis on introducing various writing techniques and crafting essays.

It’s important to know which type of course you are taking because it will determine the way you structure your notes. With that in mind, notes for a writing course will most likely center around tips that will aid you in creating a strong essay, while notes for a grammar course will be geared towards helping you memorize key rules. In this article, we will cover how to write effective notes for both class types, starting with those focused on grammar.

Thoroughly Explain Major Grammar Points

In an English grammar class, you will have to learn about different parts of speech and punctuation. Understanding what each of these components is and how they function within a sentence is extremely important. Therefore, you should make sure that your notes contain more than just definitions. You should write detailed explanations and give examples to demonstrate the usage of these grammar points.

If you are struggling with distinguishing between two or more similar concepts, you can differentiate them by comparing and contrasting. For example, if you know the usage of commas and periods but struggle with understanding how a semicolon works, then you can use that prior knowledge to your advantage. So in your notes, you could write: a semicolon, both in aesthetic and usage, is the combination of a comma and period. It separates two complete sentences like a period, but it also serves as a pause between two related ideas like a comma.

Learning how to compare and contrast what you already know with the concepts you find difficult can help strengthen both your notes and your understanding.

Review Your Notes

Reviewing your grammar notes gives you a chance to update points, add complete explanations, see if any sections are difficult to read, and fix incorrect information. You can also use this time to organize your ideas in a way that best suits your learning style, as that’s not always doable while you’re in class.

For instance, you can reorganize the content by creating lists to categorize information, use highlighters to emphasize key points, or even make tree diagrams of your sentences to help break down parts of speech for more complex grammar courses. All of these can make your notes both more complete and more useful.

Additionally, looking over your notes a second time will not only give you a chance to improve them but it will also allow you to see the material twice. This is imperative to memorizing and gaining a better understanding of the concepts not only for exams but also for using them in your future work.

Cater to Your Professor’s Preferences

For an English writing class, the way you approach note taking will be quite different. The majority of your grade will most likely be determined by how well you structure your essays and express your thoughts through them. In this instance, taking notes on grammar points is unnecessary. That is unless there is a particular grammatical concept you struggle with that will be used within your papers.

Instead, your notes should be focused around points that will assist you in creating a great paper. While there are general standards you should abide by when writing a paper, “good” writing can be somewhat subjective. What one professor considers passable, another may view as unacceptable. That is why you need to keep your professor’s preferences as well as the goal of your course in mind.

If your professor dislikes when you start sentences with conjunctions or use a passive voice, make note of it. If your course focuses on putting together research-heavy papers rather than creative pieces, make note of points that make up a strong research paper. That way when you begin the writing process, you’ll have points you can reference to keep you focused on the goals of that specific class.

Take Note of Critical Feedback

Probably the most valuable aspect of any writing course is receiving constructive criticism. If a trusted peer or professor reads your writing and gives you some advice on how to improve it, you should jot down their suggestions. Adding this information to your notes will help you remember their critiques so you can decide if you would like to implement those changes in your next essay. Taking note of critical feedback will not only help you get a better grade in your class, but it will also serve to greatly improve your writing in the long run.

Although English classes can be challenging at times, they will be easier to handle if you can write effective notes. In order to do that, you will need to know the focus of the course and your professor’s expectations. From there, you can adjust your style of note taking to fit your needs. If you can expand on keys points within your notes, take the time to review what you’ve written down, and jot down constructive criticism to use later on, you will be able to create the perfect notes for your English class.

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