Getting the most from lectures

A new semester is exciting isn’t it? Possibilities of making new friends, new activities and new courses (well, at least the first week is fun). The problem is how to keep having fun without going broke or flunking out. One strategy is to convert class time into learning time!

Don’t take notes to study later on. Instead, tell yourself that taking notes is an exercise in effective listening or “listening to learn.” Take notes that enable you to repeat the lecture. That doesn’t mean taking a tape recorder!

Lectures provide information on three levels: definitions and new terms, explanations of concepts (such as formulas or related lists of events where their order is important) and analysis or problem solving by applying the concepts to come up with a solution.

When a professor gives a definition, jot down the term. Don’t worry about writing the definition – you can find those in the textbook’s glossary or index. Instead, ask yourself why the term is important. For example, why is “foreshadowing” important in analyzing a play by Shakespeare? What does the appearance of a snake mean to the plot? What is the significance of a whole note versus a quarter note in music score?

Make sure you “talk to yourself” as you hear the new terms. Jot down why the term may be important the “so what.” Your mind will remember information if it is told why it is important.

If you passively copy stuff down without connecting it to your reality, your brain logs it as “unessential!” Then you’ll have to cram later and forget it immediately after the exam.

For concepts, ask yourself – “so what?” Why are we bothering with the concept of “renaissance” or “quadratic equations”? If you bring a text to class, see if you can find the text’s coverage of the material. A great game to play is to see how your professor handles the material as compared with the textbook author(s). The other game is to ask yourself, “what problem does this concept solve?”

Too many students only write down what is on the board bad mistake. Some only write down what they don’t understand even worse. Some zone out! Instead, get notes on those little stories that professors tell to make a point. Jesus, Mohammed and Joseph Smith all knew that people will remember stories – so will you without the pain of last minute memorizing! When a professor starts a story, jot down the key words, then listen. After the story, write down what lesson you should have picked up from that story or illustration.

The last tip is the toughest remember my advice last week about sitting next to someone who is attractive? Well, use any excuse to talk to them about the lecture. Social reinforcement of learning is what defines the difference between Ivy League students and others. The Ivy League types actually converse about what was said in class that way they do almost no memorization cause they have thought about the significance or meaning of the lectures.

Convert boring lectures into a great social life now that is my idea on how to have fun and learn!

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