Want to do Better on Exams? Take Notes by Hand (not with a laptop)

Want to do Better on Exams? Take Notes by Hand (not with a laptop)

When you attend university lectures or study alone do you use a laptop to take notes? There is significant evidence that students should use a pen and paper instead. Do you agree?

This lesson will improve your English skills. It will also help you decide if it’s better for your cognition to take notes the old-fashioned way – by hand, with a pen and paper.

Take Notes By Hand – Part I: Let’s Chat about the Photo

ESL Lesson Take Notes By Hand

1. Does she appear to be studying for a test or doing research?

2. What might have been written on the crumpled paper?

3. Is she using her finger as a guide while reading?

4. Do you prefer to use a pencil or pen for taking notes?

5. Do you think her method for studying is effective?

Take Notes By Hand – Part II: Take the Survey and Talk About It

1. What tool(s) do you use to take notes in class?

  • My tablet
  • My notebook
  • My smart phone
  • A pen and notebook
  • A pencil and notebook
  • A voice recorder
  • I don’t take notes

2. Can you type your name, address, and phone number faster than writing it?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Not sure

3. Do most people type faster than they can write?

  • Of course
  • No way
  • Uncertain

4. Is your brain more engaged while writing or typing? (take a guess)

  • Typing
  • Writing

5. Do longer notes mean better notes for test preparation? 

  • Yes
  • No
  • Not sure

6. When taking notes with your laptop, tablet, or smart phone what distracts you?

  • Text messages
  • Email
  • Pop up windows
  • Phone calls
  • Videos
  • Chat messages
  • Other

7. Which English words do you know shorthand for? For example, with = w/, and = &

8. How long can you write before your hand gets tired and you need a break?

  • 1 minute
  • 5 minutes
  • 10 minutes
  • 20 minutes
  • 30 minutes
  • 60 minutes

9. Do you keep a stress ball on your desk in your dorm room? If so, do you bring it to lectures?

10. Which memory aids do you include in your note taking? (by hand or on a laptop) Choose all that apply

  • Tables
  • Charts
  • Designs
  • Drawings
  • Bullet points
  • Silly doodles
  • Short statements
  • Terms and concepts
  • Quotes
  • The Cornell Method

Take Notes By Hand – Part III: Share Your Opinions

ESL Lesson Take Notes By Hand 2
Discuss the Photo

1. Are the students taking notes or an exam?

2. Do you think you’re a good note-taker?

3. Why aren’t note taking skills taught in schools?

Discussion Activity

Below are the 7 reasons why you should take notes by hand instead of with a laptop or other electronic devices.

Alone, rank the 7 reasons from 1 most important to 7 least important reason for you to switch or continue note taking by hand.

Try to reach consensus with your peers.

7 Reasons to Take Notes by Hand

  • Laptop users remember less information later
  • Laptops are extremely distracting (games, texts, etc)
  • Typing words on a laptop is mindless transcription. You won’t digest everything being said.
  • Taking notes on a laptop = longer notes. Longer notes are not always better for retention
  • Taking notes with a laptop makes you looks secretarial
  • Laptop screen glares fatigues your eyes
  • Laptop users are easily tempted to multi-task which lowers your focus

Did this lesson engage and inspire your students? Kindly leave a comment below and/or share this lesson.

Want to do Better on Exams? Take Notes by Hand (not with a laptop)

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