Lecture notes sure come in handy—and we teachers always remind students to take them, store them, and study them. If they want to keep up, participate, and shine on tests, that is. No problem or complaints from some. Others groan, though, when it’s get-it-all-down time. What about your child? Any of these sound familiar?

_____ “Note-taking’s boring.”
_____ “I can’t keep up.”
_____ “It makes my hand hurt.”
_____ “I lose track of what s/he’s saying.”
_____ “I can’t read my own writing.”
_____ “I’m always losing them.”
_____ “I don’t bother taking any.”

Any checkmarks? I’m not surprised. Good listening and note-taking skills are hard to come by—but crucial. Good grades depend on them. As a sixth grader said, “To learn you have to really listen; otherwise, you won’t know what’s going on.” Otherwise, students get trapped in pitfalls all along the way, from the very first word uttered to the very last “Finally . . .” To help, begin by making sure there’s a separate “Notes” section in your child’s binder for each major subject. Then, keep the note-worthy conversation going and him tuned in with these tips:

1. Write your name, date, and page number in the upper right-hand corner of each page.
2. Read in advance about an upcoming topic to better grasp future lectures.
3. To avoid losing focus, sit up front; then pretend the teacher is talking only to you.
4. Take notes on only one side of the paper, leaving the other for added notations.
5. Listen first, then write, jotting down only what you DON’T already know.
6. Don’t try to record every word; instead, note main ideas and important facts/details.
7. Try to use your own words.
8. Don’t write in complete sentences.
9. Abbreviate as much as possible.
10. Indent to show relationships among ideas, facts, and details;
Main points and definitions
Secondary points and supplementary details
11. Take note of information written on the board and mark it with an OB.
12. Write “R” when something has been repeated.
13. Write EX beside examples.
14. Take special note of introductions and summaries.
15. Leave blanks for missed information and ask a friend/teacher for it after class. Never
interrupt the lecture for it.
16. Keep taking notes during class discussions.
17. Don’t stop writing until class ends.
18. That afternoon/evening “repair” notes so they’re complete and legible.
19. During the first go-through, highlight important dates, facts, events, etc.
20. Review notes several times a week—and always out loud.

There are also signals of importance your child should listen for, watch for, and take note of. These include such phrases as, “The chief cause was . . .,” “Most importantly . . .,” “First of all . . .,” “As a result of . . ., “ “Therefore . . .,” and “To summarize . . .” Along with what’s said, what’s not said matters, too. When teachers pause, repeat information, or jot items on the board, they’re “saying” that this material is important. Other clues include slowed pacing, a raised or lowered voice, direct eye contact, and dramatic gestures. As Dante suggested long ago, “He listens well who takes notes.” There’s just no way around it. Knowing how, that’s the trick. Practicing these tips can help make it so.