I used to think my note-taking habits were excellent… that is until I took this class. In my other classes, my strategy for studying was merely to rewrite details and memorize. I obviously needed a better note-taking strategy that will allow me to record the literary or film elements that I had observed in an organized fashion.
When I read the play-text, my strategy was to highlight words that provided insights to the play and underlined words that were unfamiliar to me. When I did my close reading of Henry V, much of my highlighting was colour-coded, such that one color was for symbolism, another colour for repetition, allusion etc. This strategy of annotation helped organize my thoughts and notice patterns in the text. In doing so, I was able connect these elements and derive an interpretation of the text.
Initially, I wrote my thoughts and observations in the margins of my book or on post-it notes. Although it saved time, noting observations in the margins made my book too messy. More often than not, my handwriting was too illegible to be understood. Thus, I decided to type my thoughts and observations, which definitely helped in organizing my notes.
This strategy for reading play-text is not perfect, though. I would often be distracted when typing notes on my computer, whereby I spent more time scrolling through my Twitter feed than studying. Worse, I would have my screen split between OneNote (a great note-taking program) and Netflix (multitasking, am I right?). A way to fix this problem is to install a program (e.g. Stayfocusd) which prevents access to the websites that one has specified, once maximum time quota has been reached. However, I don’t think I’m ready to be that productive anytime soon.
I experienced similar struggles of developing a good note-taking habit, when annotating film. When we first watched Henry V in class, I thought writing notes into my tablet using a stylus was wise, but I realized that my handwriting was too illegible to be read. As such, I resolved to type my notes. Although I was able to read them, it was definitely a challenge to write detailed notes while simultaneously viewing the film. I would often have very sparse and often vague observations.
A strategy to counter this is to re-watch the film multiple times. Analogous to close reading and identifying literary elements of a play-text, multiple viewings of a film allow one to discover many representations of various film elements. When I reviewed Almereyda’s Hamlet, I needed multiple viewings. On the first viewing, I barely took notes and just allowed myself to enjoy the movie. On the subsequent viewings, I became more vigilant and started looking for manifestations of film elements. It’s worth noting that my computer screen was divided into two, such that I can simultaneously watch and take notes on OneNote. This and having the full autonomy of hitting pause whenever I wanted allowed me to study the film elements of Almereyda’s Hamlet in depth.
Annotating film is different from annotating texts, primarily due to the medium. For instance, it’s virtually impossible to highlight anything when watching a film, whereas in close reading you can highlight specific phrases. Different strategies are obviously needed to gather high-quality notes. Since I can’t highlight phrases, I jotted the time points of noteworthy scenes instead.
My film notes were also organized differently from my text notes. When annotating texts, I
only needed my computer to jot my observations down. However, when watching, I typed all the film elements that I had noticed into OneNote. When annotating film, I knew shouldn’t just pay attention the dialogue that was given. I realized that I needed to pay attention to the visual and musical elements as well, for they give cues to the theme and tone of the play.
To make my film notes appear more organized, I divided the writing space in my OneNote into sections, whereby each area of writing space is designated to either lighting, music, acting, etc. For example, when I watched the “to be or not to be” soliloquy in Almereyda’s Hamlet, I replayed it several times to look out for various elements and I typed my observations in their designated areas. From those film elements, I was able to understand what Almereyda was trying to convey in the scene.
Learning to adapt one’s note-taking strategies to various context is an important skill. However, what good will these strategies do, if you don’t re-read your notes?