Writing down the meanings of vocabulary words is one element of a larger practice: notetaking. Good thinkers rarely rely on their memory; instead, they commit their notes to the page.
Tim Ferriss is the author of three #1 New York Times bestsellers and creator of the most popular podcast on the planet. He describes himself as “a compulsive notetaker.” He has over eight feet of shelf space devoted to notebooks in which he has recorded observations about his experiments, his reflections, and his reading. All these notes were taken by hand. When writing his books, he opens his notes.
Taking notes forces you to think about what you’ve read and put it in your own words. that’s a huge aid to comprehension.
It’s a good test of it too. If you find that you can’t summarize your reading in a few sentences, you probably don’t understand it very well.
There are many ways of taking notes, too many to go into detail here. You’ll need to find a system that works for you. You can:
- Try various systems, like Cornell notes, mind-mapping, or charting
- Experiment with when to write your notes (while you read, or after you are done)
- Experiment with what to include
Just keep the ultimate goal in mind: You want to understand what you read and remember it better. Find the system that helps you meet those goals.
Do not let your child read a textbook unless she is taking notes on a separate sheet of paper. Reading a textbook is pointless if you aren’t using some system that will enable you to sort, store, and retrieve the information. Highlighting or underlining the text is not a substitute. It’s always worthwhile to take the extra time to think and take notes.