By Amanda Faller
Over my years in school, I have experimented with many ways to take notes, even using methods such as the Cornell system (link). However, time and again I always come back to the plain and simple lined notebook and just write what I think is important out. For films I write frantically trying to keep my eye on the screen, however you can see a distinct difference in my close-reading notes.
For my close reading I decided to use two different pen colours to help my eye stay focused. I used black ink to paraphrase the speech in my own words. In green ink I took phrases and words I was unfamiliar with and defined them as they appeared in the speech. I gave the black ink to the paraphrasing so it would stand out and I could read it easily.
Then, in the margins I divided the notes into parts with brackets and labels of “part 1” and so on. I underlined the important phrases at each part beginning to bring attention to them so I could later form an argument around it.
For phrases that stood out to me for their symbolism or function, I also wrote in the margins, such as “simile” “pun?”, “metaphor” and “summary”. Breaking the speech into parts let my mind focus on one section at a time without becoming distracted or off topic by the surrounding lines.
Then on the next page I “brain dumped” my opinions, observations and arguments in preparation for my essay. Overall, I think this system of note taking was very effective for myself, and helped me fully understand the speech and get the best grade I could for me. I especially like the colour coding, as it’s visually nice as well as functional.
While I was creating these notes I had my computer open with OED and my book of Henry V. Although some people think books are to use and abuse, I love a fresh, clean book with perfectly flat pages so I stay away from marking my books.
I also wrote a review on Romeo + Juliet by Baz Luhrmann. For this, I had the film going and my notebook open. These are the messiest notes I have because the film is so fast paced. Sometimes I would rewind the film and watch back something if I missed a detail. For each new point I drew a dash to help me later see the order of things so it wasn’t just a blob of words. Some of these notes have no real meaning however they helped recall certain ideas or visuals when I wrote my review. I found myself writing down small details such as “editing quickens” and “shadow over face”. Those were the details I decided to go with for the film review. They helped me dig deeper into the filmic choices of the director rather than more obvious things (such as “gun instead of dagger”).
In the margins I have arrows and brackets to connect separate ideas to help me find patterns or even to just elaborate on a thought.
For some concepts, instead of describing them in words, I found it quicker to jot a small doodle of what I meant. On the second page I drew out a frame composition I found striking as well as Juliet’s eyes later on in the frame
Slowly my writing becomes more illegible as I was seeing more interesting things to take note of. For this particular note set I decided to just jot ideas to help me remember later. In fact, I hardly used these notes while writing my review because I did it right after watching the film and my thoughts were still fresh. Perhaps if I wrote it another day these notes would become more meaningless as they are vague and messy. This note style is, I think, appropriate for watching a film, and they also helped me quite a bit in getting the best mark I personally could.
In my opinion it would be impossible to do the same note style for a close reading and a film review. However each note styles have their pros and cons. For example, the close reading notes are very clear and organized, yet lots of the actual “arguments” came only when I “brain dumped” later on. No real ideas or arguments came in the beginning stages of these notes. The opposite can be said for the film review notes. They are unorganized (other than chronologically) and are made purely of ideas and arguments. I am glad I have experimented earlier in my life with different note taking habits to help me today in finding the best way to do it for different situations.