Mark Borissov: Notes Reflection

I have an odd relationship to note taking. I find the ways in which I take notes vary depending on my professor’s teaching style. If the professor writes on a board or overhead projector as he or she speaks I will be more inclined to take notes along with the lecture. But if the professor’s teaching style is guided by a PowerPoint presentation, or heavily reliant on group discussion, I tend to close my note book until after class is finished, and will instead try to be as engaged in what I’m viewing and discussing as possible. In lectures where I take fewer notes I will only write down things which I know are significant due to their emphasis in that class, or something that interests me enough to revisit it later. To counteract my lack of in class notes, I tend to take more notes outside of these classes.


When annotating a text, I never take notes in the margins of my book. It may be helpful for some people, but I find annotated margins distracting and messy on the page, that they create problems when rereading the text. Instead, I will take notes on a separate page, but only of explicit plot details, or of literary devices worth remembering. The only thing I add to my books are sticky notes used to point out specific passages, however I tend to do this mostly when analyzing small parts of a text and gathering quotations for an essay.


In regards to this class my note taking practices haven’t changed much. Since our class is guided by PowerPoint and utilizes class discussion I tend to avoid taking notes. When viewing films, I find it especially important to pay close attention to the details in the scenes we watch. Concentrating on a film academically isn’t something I’ve experienced often prior to taking this course, and I’ve found that annotating while watching to be counterproductive. However, I did find it helpful to have read the assigned texts before class, as we tended to watch scenes which relate directly to what we had to read, especially Crowl.


This being a Shakespeare course, I’ve taken many notes on our assigned plays. I’ve been using my mom’s copy of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” to read at home, so notes in the margin are not acceptable. My understanding of Shakespeare is a lot like my understanding of Russian; it’s a language I know, often forgot, but remember easily with practice. Before taking notes on a Shakespeare play, before I even start reading it, I prefer to read a synopsis so I know what’s going on instead of trying to figure it out. I will then usually read the play twice. The first time I read a Shakespeare play I like to view a performance of it and follow along, focusing on plot, and taking very few notes. The second reading is done slowly and out-loud, more focused on details and semantics. During the second reading I will make annotations on a separate page, most of which will be either quotations from the play, or interpretations written in colloquial. Apart from essay research, this will be the only time I take notes explicitly in regards to the text.


Taking notes on film is similar, yet slightly different. The first time I watch a film I won’t take any notes, and will instead, like reading a play or sitting in class, sit back and enjoy it, trying to sponge up as much information as possible. After the first viewing I will meditate on what I’ve watched, taking personal notes on things that I noticed and can remember from the film. Watching it a second time, I will pause and take notes on things that are relevant to my inquiry, skipping through things that aren’t. When analyzing a specific scene, I will skip, pause, and replay at my heart’s content, until every camera angle, every cue, every cut is analyzed.


In all honesty I’m not sure whether or not my annotative practices are successful or not. Having been diagnosed with a bullshit learning disability at a young age, I found it hard as a kid to take notes, and only started doing so when I began university. Creating these rules for myself around when to and when not to take notes allows me to concentrate more easily on what I’m learning. So far I’m not failing any of my classes this semester, I’d call that a success.

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