So many lectures, discussions, textbook pages . . . How can your child be expected to remember it all? Dante said, “He listens well who takes notes.” And that’s the key– listening with the intent to learn, getting it all down, and then studying out loud to insure recall over the long haul. To find out how your child manages it all, read at a good pace this excerpt from Geography: The World and Its History and have her take notes:

“Italy’s Heritage: For hundreds of years, Italy was the heart of Western civilization. The Roman Empire, based in Italy, influenced the government, arts, and architecture of Europe. After the fall of the Roman Empire in A.D. 400s, Italy was divided into many small territories and city-states. Each city-state included an independent city and its surrounding countryside. The Renaissance developed in Italy’s city-states during the 1300s and spread throughout Europe. It was a period of great achievement in the arts . . .”

Now figure out how she did by asking . . .

1. Did you take note of all the important information? _____
2. How did you go about taking notes?
_____ a. Recorded every word.
_____ b. Jotted down only main ideas and important details.
_____ c. Abbreviated some words, along with other shortcuts.
_____ d. Outlined or indented to show relationships between ideas.
_____ e. Didn’t keep up very well.
_____ f. Actually, gave up.

If everything of importance wasn’t noted, don’t be surprised or disappointed. When it comes to lecture notes, try as they might, lots of kids can’t keep up, and it’s no wonder. Too many of them try to record every word, and that’s just about impossible. What’s needed are shortcuts. Without them, notes are often incomplete and/or unreadable—and frustration prevails. That can all change, however, with these timesavers, so be sure to share and practice them with your son or daughter:

1. Eliminate most periods at the ends of sentences. They just slow things down, plus the following sentence will start with a capital letter anyway. For instance, I am a teacher

2. Eliminate unnecessary words, such as a, an, the, this, those, etc., which can be eliminated without distorting meaning. For instance, I am teacher

3. Replace linking verbs (am, is, was, were, etc.) with an equal sign. For instance:
I = teacher

4. Jot down a code in the margin for long, oft-repeated terms, so the word is written only once. For instance: I = igneous rocks; P = photosynthesis

5. Eliminate some vowels whenever doable. For instance: I = tchr or Rd nwspapr evry day

6. Use word beginnings/1st syllables instead of the entire word. For instance: Bio exm = Wed

7. Abbreviate, developing a personal shorthand. For instance: w/o (without); Q(therefore); b/tw (between); < (less than); > (more than); : (following);
” (to; resulting in); ! (from; as a result of); #(up, upward; increase/increasing); $ (down, downward; decrease/decreasing)

Practice, of course, is essential. While getting rid of periods is a snap, cutting words down to first syllables/sounds and employing lots of symbols is trickier at first. Ditto for equal signs replacing some verbs while eliminating some vowels along the way. But you can help. Look over class notes and together figure out ways to abbreviate them even more. And at every opportunity, dictate shopping lists, directions, paragraphs from books, magazines, and newspapers. Occasionally reverse roles. And, just in case you hear a complaint or two, share this tidbit: Within two weeks, forgetting sets in by as much as 80%. After four weeks, recall can slip to as low as 5%. So, while getting your child’s abbs in shape may take some work, in the end, there will be a sigh of relief and better grades–with no signs of writer’s cramp. Don’t delay.