Welcome to UNIT 4:4! 
Form Four 

Review: Previously in Unit 4:3, we discussed about how to interactively teach the sub topic, ‘Reading Intensively for Comprehension’ in Form Three. In that sub topic, we discussed how to use read skim, scan, and intensively read various texts on various topics.  
In this Unit 4:4, we will learn how to teach the sub topic, ‘Listening for main ideas and taking notes’ in Form Four. In this sub topic, we will focus on engaging and encouraging students to take down what they listen orally from the teachers during the lesson.

(Also: For Literature in English Subject, Check out my Literature in English Blog. Also check out My Diary for Diary Writing Inspiration and More! )

2. Sub Topic: Listening for main ideas and taking notes.
3. Periods per sub topic: 12
4: Class: Form Four


The sole aim of this sub topic is to help students make summary notes. This sub topic together with those topics related to this one automatically answers the BIG QUESTION most teachers ask. The question says, “Should I prepare notes for my students?” The ANSWER is always “NO”. There are reasons for this:
  1.  One, when a teacher does not prepare notes his or her students will adapt that situation and take it as normal tendency. In the process, student will be productive and will only need little teacher’s assistance in some difficult areas. The role of a teacher will be to give some carefully summarised ‘notes’ or ‘guides’ to the students.
  2.  Second, when this topic and other Note Taking topics are taught, they should be taught as the starting points for students to know that they should take notes for their own. More importantly, every habit should be practiced over and over again. So, when students are made to prepare their own notes, this will make them aware of the situation and gets adapted to it.
  3.  Also, this is possible because in lower classes there are topics like Dictations and Note takings that are expected to be taught in the way that they fully prepare students to the exercise of taking notes on their own. Form I topic, TAKING NOTES with a sub topic, Writing Notes from Oral Texts, and writing notes from written texts, all are purposely meant to prepare students for note taking. The thing to be done is just to teach them effectively so as they can have big impact to the students in the future.
  4.  Library use and use of books. Allowing students to make their own notes will help them to use the library if the school has one and this will boost their participation in the learning process.

Activity 1: WHAT IS ‘NOTE’ OR ‘NOTES’?.
Listening for main ideas and taking notes is a task that students have to experience before they become accustomed to it. Unlike reading, when taking notes, a student can't stop a lesson or tell a teacher to stop and review as he/she listens. This can only happen if the lesson is recorded.

A teacher brainstorms with the students to the sub topic by introducing and discussing about the meaning of the terms and how the tasks of taking notes are meant to be applied.

The purpose of note taking is clear from the definitions of the term itself:
For example, according to the website “”, the term ‘note’ is defined as a brief record, especially one written down to aid the memory: especially took notes on the lecture or during a class lesson. This concludes that ‘notes’ are not the texts copied directly from the book and be called notes. Teacher’s notes themselves are just ‘hints’ summarized from various books. The teacher can give summarized ‘notes’ like these ones to students but he/she should not forget to let them write their own ‘notes’ as he/she teaches in the class.

Also Microsoft Encarta 2009 defines a ‘note’ as a jotted record or summary: something written down, often in abbreviated form, as a record or reminder.
For example, I'd made a note of her phone number. This also means that ‘notes’ are summaries of what is spoken, or summarised materials from the large body of a written work.

In taking notes, students should be very keen on the lesson. Therefore preparation prior to listening can greatly improve comprehension. Before note taking, students should consider the following:
  •   Have a clear purpose. The keen purpose that he/she is going to pay attention to what is said.
  •   Recognise main ideas. Getting the main ideas written, because from these main ideas he/she can add more details to support them.
  •   Select what is relevant; students do not need to write down everything that is said.
  •   Have a system for recording information that works for him or her. The working systems here are like useful symbols and recording systems if they are allowed.
Procedures and Strategies to increase comprehension and improve note-taking for students.
An English teacher like other subject teachers has the responsibility to tell his/her students to know the procedures they should use when they want to be good note takers. Here are the procedures:
Before the lesson
  •   Revise the previous lesson. The students should be encouraged to revise what was taught before so as to have a good connection with the coming topic or aspect.
  •   Pre-read about the topic. Students are advised to use library or borrow books so as to read the topic before it is taught in the class. This will help the students to have the ideas of the topic.
  •   Check the pronunciation of any new words or discipline-specific language in the pre-readings.
  •   Rule up pages according to suitable note-taking system. This saves time in the lesson.
During the lesson
  •   Be on time and sit near the front. The students should be encouraged not to be late or miss the lesson. They should be late or miss the lesson for reasons. This will make them keep up with the lesson.
  •   Distinguish between main points, elaboration, examples, repetition, restatements and new points by:
o   Listening for structural cues (transition words, introduction, body and summary stages)
o   Looking for non-verbal cues (facial expression, hand and body signals)
o   Looking for visual cues (considering the content of any visual aids used, note references to names and sources)
o   Listening for phonological cues (voice change in volume, speed, emotion). Generally with more important information the speaker will speak slower, louder and they will direct their attention to the audience.
After the lesson
  •   Revise lesson notes within 24 hours. Tidy up your handwriting and fill in any missing bits. Reviewing makes remembering lectures much easier. Generally, students should be encouraged to revise their notes in 24 hours. This is always a time before next lesson so a student cannot have so many things to cover at the shortest time.
  •   Write a short summary of the lesson (1 paragraph) in your own words attach any hand outs or ‘notes’ to your lesson notes.
Other Techniques to Consider.

1. Use symbols and abbreviations
The use of symbols and abbreviations is useful for lessons and note taking. Because the speed is essential, symbols and abbreviations are also important. Thus, the students need to be familiar with symbols frequently used in note taking.
They should develop a sort of system of symbols and abbreviations; some may be personal, some may be universally used.
Students should be consistent when using symbols and abbreviations:

Symbols for note taking
= - Equals/is equal to/is the same as.
≠ -  Is not equal to/is not the same as.
≈  - Is equivalent to.
:. - Therefore, thus, so.
Coz – Because.
&/+- And, more, plus.
≤ - More than, greater than.
≥ - Less than.
˃/- - Less, minus.

Some useful words are:
Gives, causes, produces, leads to, results in, is given by, is produced by, results from, comes from.
Rises, increases by.
Falls, decreases by.
Proportional to.
Not proportional to.

These can be classified into three categories:

1. Common abbreviations
Many are derived from Latin.
c.f. (confer) = compare
i.e. (id est) = that is
e.g (exempla grate) = for example
NB (nota benne) =note well
no. (numero) = number
etc. (et cetera)= and so on

2. Discipline-specific abbreviations
In chemistry:
Au for gold
Mg for magnesium
In other fields there may be other symbols and abbreviations as well.

3. Personal abbreviations
Here you can shorten any word that is commonly used in your lectures.
diff =different.
Gov = government.
NEC = necessary.
Bse/bcoz/’cause = because.
@ = at
& = and
Some abbreviations are so well known and widely used that they have become common among the people.

2. Use concept maps and diagrams
Yet students can write down the information in a concept map or diagram. This presents the information in a visual form and is unlike the traditional linear form of note taking. Information can be added to the concept map in any sequence.
Concept maps can easily become cluttered, so the writer should allow plenty of space for adding ideas and symbols.
The writer should begin in the middle of the page and add ideas on branches that radiate from the central idea or from previous branches.
Arrows and words can be used to show links between parts of the concept map.
Colour and symbols are important parts of concept maps, helping illustrate ideas and triggering your own thoughts.

Prepare the students to write down notes on the text you are going to read. It is expected that this habit will be built to them in English subject and in other subjects. This sub topic complements the sub topic that was taught when these students were in Form One. This is not like dictations, but a normal lesson on any topic or subject aspect.

Allow the students to compare the notes in pairs and one member of the group to read the group’s notes and then discussed before the class.
Allow the students to share what they have written down as notes taken. This will help them to see and correct their errors encountered when taking down notes. This will also be their chance to start sharpening their skills of note taking.

Finally, a teacher can sum up the lesson.
The teacher can remind the students on important things to consider when taking notes and give more tasks on taking down notes. A teacher can talk about any topic and let the students take down notes on what he/she is saying. Then the students can compare their works or notes taken and see how they are different and how they have employed the skills of taking notes. These tasks are expected to be applied in their lessons as well.

6: CONNECTION: Beyond the Sub Topic
. At the end of this sub topic, students should be able to summarize main ideas and take down notes from what is said. The student is also expected to develop the following academic skills:
  •    Organisation sills.
  •    Referencing skills.
  •    Writing skills.
  •    Critical thinking.
  •    Reading and note-taking.
  •    Effective listening.
  •    Effective reading.
  •    Reading for understanding
  •    Note-taking skills.
  •    Listening and note-taking strategies.
  •    Note making from written text.
  •    Exam preparation skills.

7: NOTE: This sub topic, like TAKING NOTES topic in Form One, are very important in making students be able to write main ideas and take down notes in their class lessons.
Also it should be noted that, symbols are means of taking notes as many as possible but they are not to be applied during assessments like exercises, tests, assignments and examinations. This is because when used, these symbols and abbreviations are considered informal.
Note taking should be supplemented by library use and availability of enough books for the students because when they take short notes in their exercise books, they will always go the library and read the materials for more assistance or they will borrow books. The teacher him/herself can supply some copies after the lesson. IMPORTANT: When students are given the books to use, they should also have been taught How to take notes from written texts, the sub topic that is in Form One as well. Without teaching them this skill, they take down many contents and fail to distinguish between the main points with minor points or relevant and irrelevant materials.


Emmanuel Kachele

Emmanuel Kachele is a founder and Blogger of KACHELE ONLINE Blog, an educational blog where 'O' Level English - 'OLE', 'A' Level English (ALE) and other related teaching and life skills are shared extensively. This is an online center for all Tanzanian Secondary School English Language students and teachers (Forms I-VI) and all interested English Language learners and teachers worldwide.

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