Daniel Leong: Notes Reflection

As a result of being a quick thinker, a visual learner, and generally forgetful person, I much prefer electronic note taking when watching films, but find colored pens to be invaluable when analyzing text. I also find it beneficial to assume that everything done in a film or text is entirely intentional and, as though I were interviewing the director/author, I often ask myself: “What does this mean, and why is this way?”

This kind of thinking does limit my ability to take notes on film somewhat, as there is simply too much information about music, lighting, angles and shots for me to question and write about while viewing. For this reason, I often choose to focus primarily on choices pertaining to music and lighting as (Owing to my background in orchestra and video advertising) they are the simplest for me to understand. In terms of what I actually write down, I find that because of my forgetful but thorough nature it’s often in my best interest to write down words or phrases that help me remember what I was thinking at the time of viewing, rather than writing down exactly what I’m thinking. For example, with regards to music, while viewing the Crispin’s Day speech of Branagh’s Henry V I might write something along the lines of:

  • High diss shots +tymp = fear (Odds–)
  • Henry! low chord+add inst. + cresc chords=hope(Voice++)

As opposed to writing out:

  • The director chose dissonant shots from the high strings coupled with the steady tympani beat to indicate grim prospects for Henry’s soldiers.
  • When King Henry appears, the music switches from shots to major chords from the low strings. Their crescendo, coupled with the addition of many more instruments is matched by the volume of Henry’s voice and gives a hopeful, inspiring tone to the rest of his speech.

The fault in this method of note taking is that it is entirely dependent on my ability to recall what I was thinking. That being said, I find that though I’m occasionally unable to recollect my initial thought process, taking these kinds of notes gives me the opportunity to pay closer attention to the structure of scenes/sequences as a whole and how the elements I focus on (Music and lighting) fit into the larger picture. I know I’ve taken good notes when I look at them at home and remember instantly what I was seeing and why I thought what I thought.


Of course, no such problem of forgetting exists with text, as I can read and re-read to my heart’s content. With regards to note-taking, I often prefer to reformat and print out my own versions of passages so as to have ample room for annotation using colored pens. I’ve tried highlighters in the past, however, since I ask myself both “What does this mean?” and also “Why is it this way?” when reading, I find colored pens to be better for allowing me to precisely articulate my thoughts on specific words or phrases.

As a result of this method of thinking, I primarily look for meaning in specific diction, word connotations, and consonance/assonance as I find that the choice of words and how they sound are often the building blocks for the larger meanings of passages. Using the same example of the Crispin’s Day speech, I would underline every word pertaining to the idea of fellowship or brotherhood in blue, circle every example of alliteration in orange, every repetition of “Crispin” or “Crispian” in green, every word pertaining to ideas of battle in red and every word pertaining to ideas of remembrance in purple. Any thoughts I have regarding any of these themes I could then write down in their respective color and immediately connect them tangibly to the text. Having a general understanding of a particular play’s themes as a whole then enables me to quickly categorize and assign meanings to the specific use of these words/literary devices.

This does mean, of course, that I sometimes miss out on literary devices such as allusion, foreshadowing, metaphor, personification, etc. However, if the themes of the overall play are consistent throughout, I hardly think that a thorough analysis of diction will cause me to miss out on significant meaning coming from another literary device when considering plays as a whole.

Overall, my strategy of note taking hasn’t evolved much with respect to text since high school, however, the film-focus of this course has allowed for significant development in my note-taking for film.

Caitlyn Molstad: Notes Reflection

I am an extremely visual learner so my annotation and notes are all done by hand. I find that when I write things down- sometimes more than once- I can retain a large amount of information. I take a lot of notes, jotting down everything I can think of at first, then going back over them to pick out the most important points and emphasize what is most significant. I often re-write my notes after a lecture to better retain the information.


When close reading a play-text, I begin by creating a list of the characters. I find it helpful to do some external research and write a brief description of each character’s place within the narrative, connection to other characters, and some of their personal qualities and motives within the text. I refer back to this list often during my readings. I have found my readings of texts in which the language is more difficult than usual to be most successful when I seek external information and summaries before diving into a close reading. Sparknotes is often viewed negatively in higher academic settings but I think that it can be an effective addition to traditional close readings. annotation-2I paraphrase each scene of every act in a play, writing down the general plot line so that when I start my close reading, I can focus on the more nuanced details of the text instead of struggling to grasp the basic storyline. I find I am more successful in analyzing Shakespeare’s elevated language when I already have a strong grasp of what’s going on in a particular scene.

Once I have my list of characters and a paraphrase of each scene, I begin the close reading process. annotation-1I like to look over the footnotes and briefly annotate or translate anything I think is significant next to the lines on the top half of the page so I’m not constantly breaking away from the text to read the notes. Then, I mark off the meter of the text, which not only helps me to understand the meaning behind the poetic devices at work, but also focuses me on the rhythm of each line and slows my reading down. In a very detailed close reading of a scene, I underline and highlight different things that jump out at me, like any alliteration or variation on syllables. I found using the glossary of terms provided to us by Dr. Ullyot to be helpful and I take note of which poetic or linguistic elements I notice in a particular passage.

My annotation and notes when analyzing a film are a little less formal than when reading a play-text, but perhaps more time-consuming. I watch the film all the way through, taking a first set of notes that are more like a stream of consciousness. I write down any thoughts and ideas I get while watching the film, important symbols, cinematic techniques at work, the effect of score or soundtrack, and any important quotes that stand out to me. I also take note of any scenes or sequences that I found to be particularly interesting and write down the time at which they occur in the film. I then go back to those scenes and take notes with more detail and attention than the first set. After I’ve seen the whole movie, I write down any final thoughts or conclusions about the film and any arguments I might make.

I think it’s also interesting to note that I use these different viewing and reading habits to compliment one another in my understanding of a text. Reading the play-text can help to accentuate meanings I perhaps didn’t pick up on in a film, and watching scenes on film can help me better understand a particular scene from the play. When I engage in different mediums and methods of understanding a text, I am successful in uncovering deeper meaning and more diverse interpretations that I may not have with a one-dimensional approach.

I determine my success in annotating by talking to someone about the text once I’m finished studying. I find that if I am able to explain meaning, details, and engage verbally by teaching someone else about the material, I generally have a good understanding of the text. This way, not only do I feel confident in my own knowledge, but those closest to me become well-educated on the texts I engage with!

Shoshanna Paperny: Notes Reflection

When reading, a text as foreign as Shakespearean plays, many tactics must be employed in order to understand not only the surface, but deeper meaning. In play writes and film involving Shakespeare’s text and language there is often alternative meanings than what originally meets the eye. Within the text lies various forms of symbolism, puns, irony and hidden messages that one would not notice without deeper speculation. When reading a play or watching a film my annotation process involves multiple steps. The first is re-reading or re watching the content.
By becoming better acquainted with the content you are already at an advantage when it comes to annotating the text. You become more familiar with the storyline, characters and general plot. Apart from that each time I read or watch a play, a new piece of information stands out to me, or I notice an aspect that I hadn’t before. After reviewing it twice or three times through I revisit the sections that A)stood out to me as being important, or B)I found confusing. At this point in the process I annotate a written play differently than a film.
For a play I revisit the interesting or confusing sections and start to decode it one word at a time. By finding or gaining a better explanation of what key words mean, you can start to understand what the text is getting at or portraying. In a film on the other hand, I typically approach these scenes by returning to the original text that the scene is based on. For me I best understand information through reading. Often by just reading the words from the paper I can better understand what is occurring on film.
This use of using text and film together to annotate goes both ways. By watching a Shakespearean film, and reading the original play (or vide versa), you gain a better understanding for the play and the content being portrayed. This way you are exposed to another person’s impression of the play while integrating it with your own mental imagery of it. While reading the text I will often underline these key words and read the text out loud in order to consolidate the information.
By annotating text you are not simply summarizing what is it front of you. You are adding something new, maybe a concept or a way in which is wasn’t understood before. For me a successful annotation provides me with the ability to not only relay on the story I read/watched but also be able to add my own opinions or takes on it. If you truly have a deep understanding for the content you are able to expand on it and gain deeper insight on its various meanings.

Samuel Martyn: Notes Reflection

My notes are awful. They are sparse and happen relatively infrequently. Particularly for reading a play or watching film. They are nondescript for the most part. If anyone aside from me was to look at my notes, they would not gain much, if anything at all.

Most of my annotation when it comes to going through the text of a play, does not consist of writing words between the lines or in the margins. I circle, highlight, and underline words or phrases of significance. I usually read the scene/passage out loud, and make these annotations during or after. This is so I can gauge the emotion, flow, and emphasis of the passage. The few words I write in are only to describe the emotion or tone of the speaker.


The reason for my style of note-taking (or lack thereof) is that once I read or hear the text a couple of times through, I can process it quite easily. I also find it more beneficial to return and re-read the entire passage to remember or understand the text than to try and interpret what the annotation I wrote in at a prior time means. Following a single story-line with the same characters throughout the text, I can very easily process and engage in what is happening without taking many notes.

This sentiment is even further experienced when I watch a film. I rarely take notes while watching film. By actively pairing the narrative with faces and voices, and literally having the text played out in front of my eyes, I almost immediately process and internalize what is happening. Film is my favourite medium (aside from music) for the sole fact that I can recall its information so quickly and accurately. The only time I will write down a note from a film is when there is a line that I want to remember, or a song on the soundtrack that I want to download at a later time.

The only other time in which I will write something down while watching a film or reading a play text, is when I want to be looking for categorical or symbolic representations within the medium. However, these will not be specific things I write down, it will be more like “watch for: lighting shifts, change in tone, music”, etc. I do this instead of in depth, specific notes, because I want to be engaged with the text medium itself, rather than try to keep up with both note taking and observation and then end up missing something significant within the text.

My notes are typically not successful in the sense that they should be. When I do annotations, I typically look back a few days later and have absolutely no idea what it means. When it comes to the final exam however, I do realize that this choice of extremely limited annotation may cause some issues for me. I take notes in my history classes, when there are not necessarily story lines or narratives, or consistent characters that make the material a linear, thematic text. Annotations done on my part do not help me comprehend English literature any better.

My notes may come across as “insufficient” to others or, it may seem as if I am not engaging in the text, but that could not be farther from the truth. Notes are just not how I find I can actively engage the text.

Jordin Cummings: Notes Reflection

In order to properly evaluate my annotation practices when reading a play text, I decided to do what I did for my close reading paper but with Act IV Scene I of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

In comparison to the start of the semester my note taking skills have greatly evolved. I am no longer afraid to write little notes anywhere in the book. On the other-hand, larger notes still belong on sticky pads! I have greatly expanded my knowledge of various poetic terms and elements and that has made it easier to really breakdown the text. In only 128 lines of play text I was able to identify the blank verse and iambic pentameter rhythm along with multiple structural, linguistic and semantic terms.


Annotating Play Text 

My note taking process is very methodical and almost always follows the same routine in regards to an assignment.

  • Step One: Write out the basics. What is the assignment? What are the texts? What is the question?
  • Step Two: Have you read the text? No? Read it.
  • Step Three: What are your general thoughts on the text?
  • Step Four: Close read the text in relation to the question. Annotated. Highlight things to be defined.
  • Step Five: Expand your annotated notes; what are your thoughts now? Write out definitions.

After all of that my notes are very comprehensive. I know they are successful because when I go to complete an assignment everything is clearly laid out for me. If I effectively teach the material back to someone or try to explain my discovered concept I also know I have absorbed what I took down. In comparison to my practices for a play text, my annotation skills when I watch a film are not as formulated.

To properly evaluate my annotation practices for a film I chose the 2013 Carlei Romeo & Juliet as I have never seen it before. I chose to focus on a specific section, what would be Act IV Scene I in the play text. I chose this portion of the movie because the first thing I would do when annotating a film on Shakespeare would be to read the text first so I can get a sense of where I am at in the real story. This was especially helpful as this version of Romeo and Juliet cuts the whole interaction with Paris. After reading the text I would watch the movie. Just watch; no annotating. I want to be able to just watch without searching in the same way I would read a text to get a feel for it first.

After reading the text and watching the film I would make notes on the basics of the film. What did I watch? How is it different from the text? Then I can try watching it again with more attention to detail. The unfortunate thing with annotating a film is that the film moves at a continuous pace whereas annotating does not. I find myself pausing an going back just so I can catch something and write it down. Annotating a film definitely takes a lot longer!


Annotating Film

In almost 5 minutes of film and one scene I was able to closely review and really get a feel for the directors take on this play. I found the best way to identify key elements Carlei used in his film was to pause when I saw something of interest, take note of the time, and then make a simple note to clue me into what I had found. I know this way of annotating a film works for me because if I needed to explain the film to someone I would have seen it many times in close detail. I also know this way works because if I needed to further expand my notes or write a paper on the film I would have detailed annotations with timestamps for quick reference. It would be very easy to apply terms such as Samuel Crowl’s in Shakespeare and Film to the ideas I’d found.

Although my practices of annotation have greatly evolved in regards to both film and play text, I have realized through this reflection that I definitely prefer to annotate a text!


Works Cited

Crowl, Samuel. Shakespeare and Film. Norton, 2007.

Romeo & Juliet. Directed by Carlo Carlei, performances by Hailee Steinfield and Paul Giamatti, D Films, 2013, 1:15:20-1:19:52.

Shakespeare, William. Romeo and Juliet. Folger Digital Texts, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, Folger Shakespeare Library, pp. 92-96, http://www.folgerdigitaltexts.org/download/pdf/Rom.pdf, Accessed 14 Nov. 2016.


Katarina Nedeljakova: Argument Reflection

Until I started taking university level English classes, I never truly appreciated the art of annotating text and more broadly, note taking as a whole. As a child, I have always been told that books were to be read and not written in. However, as I started reading more texts, mostly those considered “difficult” (such as Shakespeare), it became increasingly harder to keep my thoughts in my head. Slowly, my thought process spilled from the comfort of my own brain to notebooks and finally the text itself. Looking back, it seems impossible that my essays on literature were of even a satisfactory quality without the intricate analyzing methods I use now.


The approach which I take when reading/annotating literature usually begins with reading the text as a whole or quickly skimming the passage I am analyzing. At this time I make sure to scribble down anything that jumps out at me, then re-read the passage of interest again, slowly and deliberately. If I am preparing to write on a specific topic, I jot down the question or statement I am arguing somewhere on the page, so it is always in the back of my head when reading that passage. An example of my annotating skills was this past close reading of Henry V. I began by quickly reading the passage, paying more attention to the tone of the text than the words themselves. I drew sloppy lines across the page when I felt changes in mood. I made sure to reread the text frequently, when I had a couple minutes before classes or before bed and every time I did, something subtle jumped out at me. By this time, when I sat down to write the paper a few days later, I had a general idea of how I felt about this text and the points I wanted to analyze.

I reread the passage, this time slowly and deliberately. I usually analyze the text in the sections that I previously marked as having a shift in tone. At this point I pay special attention to the literary devices used, the rhythm of the text, and any references (cultural or other) that have been made. Now my annotating moves from the margins to the printing instead, and involves lots of circling and underlining as well as reading out loud. It is also of great help, mostly when analyzing plays, to listen to someone else reading the passage of interest out loud. This helps me catch any structural patterns I might have missed, and more often than not clarifies why a certain choice of words was used in the text. At this point, I also make sure to look any words I might not understand or any references that jumped out at me (this often leads to hours spent on Wikipedia reading up on history). I know I successfully annotated a text when I can easily write about it. If I sit down to write an essay and I have no clue what I am doing, I know I need to go back and analyze the text more. On the other hand, when I sit down and can easily write a decent paper, I know it is due to the meticulous process of reading, jotting down notes, and re-reading.


By annotating the text, I feel like my writing has become a lot more concise and focused. I no longer feel the need to ramble on for pages. This is now done on my text and the paper is much neater and legible, with the book holding all the “behind the scenes” writing.

When it comes to taking notes on something that is not on paper, I usually have a much harder time. When viewing films, I try to watch the movie as a whole, once again making note of anything that jumps out at me, and then re-watching it. The second time around, I pause at certain scenes and replay clips that I find to be of interest. This is a rather time consuming process, and is usually more practical being done in one sitting. However, I have very little experience annotating film outside English 311 and have not yet mastered a system for doing this efficiently. As of now it consists of jumping back and forth trying to take note of anything I find particularly important, ranging anywhere from the visual choices the director makes to the way the script was written and acted out.




Matthew Moghadam: Notes Reflection

        The annotation process of film can be quite a drab and tiresome predicament for some. While this process is advantageous to place an emphasis on analysis rather than mere observation of a work, it can still be dull and monotonous. Nevertheless, often it is also a necessity to uncover underlying meanings, unique interpretations, or even one’s own perspectives on a particular matter. In my own consideration, the success of such note-taking varies entirely on the media that is examined, for while my practice of annotation for play-texts emerges quickly and almost entirely, film analysis is a much more lengthy and complicated exercise.

        In most cases, I prefer the annotation of play texts as each can be reread, further analyzed, and considered multiple times in a short period. In terms of textual analyses of plays, I feel as if my own perception of ideas within the text are more thorough as their significance is clarified almost immediately and elaborated soon after. In the examination of a play text, I find it easiest and most efficient to read the text aloud, thus grasping a fuller understanding of the meaning behind each word used – particularly in the case of complicated language, such as that of Shakespeare. This not only provides the overt tone of the piece through the development of emotion, but entices my full focus on the material at hand instead of inciting distractions. Play-text Note-takingA play-text analysis also allows me to visually examine the content, rather than the relying on the necessity to view an interpretation while also listening to a passage. Such an appreciation of this is evident upon a simple examination of my texts, as they typically resemble overused and well-loved cookbooks, with explanations, highlights, interpretations, and connections. This practice provides me opportunities to recognize consistent themes, word usage, recurring expressions, and other textual elements. As a visual learner, each method of analysis is imperative to my understanding and development of meaning within a play-text, for it focuses not on an optical spectacle but rather a corporeal verse.

        In terms of film analyses, my annotation process changes completely. I truly find it rather difficult to analyze critically as the film progresses, as I am drawn to the cinematic performance instead. I constantly find myself lost in the plot, and reminders to focus on the primary purpose of the examination are abound. However, with a degree of reprimand and a potential second-screening, my notebooks are better-filled with ideas, comments, and a number of questions. Even so, I often find it troublesome to elucidate on particular practices or ideas within the film due to its fleeting nature, rather than material state. As such, the approach that works best for me is to annotate simple ideas while watching and supplement them later. I aim to capture very rough conjectures that continuously surface, such as a particular mood or typical shot type, and further augment such theories following the screening. I am sure this is common practice for many, and certainly understand why this would be the case. Rather than detracting from the piece in the constant pursuit of a fully-developed concept before the end credits roll, it allows one to both participate in and analyze the screening simultaneously. However, in my case, I feel as if much of the annotation seems quite basic and trivial in terms of meaning, particularly if ideas are lost or forgotten in a film’s deliberation. While aspects such as colour, framing, typicalities of shots, or score are certainly of great import to a piece, much of these evaluations feel hollow in comparison to their profound counterparts. I consistently aim to develop postulations abounding in complexities and in-depth considerations, and though it takes a great deal of mulling and contemplation, ideas that appear to me as shallow or basic do gradually dissipate to uncover stronger understandings and conclusions. 

        While each may have their strong suits when examined critically, I believe their success cannot be determined entirely by quantity, but rather the quality of interpretation that is established. Both the annotation of play-texts and film allow for a deep exploration of literary concepts, although each process is completely unique in itself. My preference may lie with the medium of text-plays due to their intrinsically accommodating nature, but the analysis of film certainly has its merits as well. Regardless of the method that is undertaken in terms of inquiry, providing a comprehensive analysis is the primary purpose of each, and both may provide additional postulations to captivate and delight audiences.

Reilly Kruger: Notes Reflection

    The transformations that I have made in my annotation practices have changed drastically since I’ve been in university. Note taking in university involves neat and tidy writing that is 100% legible, the notes must also be relevant and concise. On the contrary, my note taking practices while in high school were illiterate scribbles that were lengthy and ill formatted. As I have grown in university so has the quality of my notes and annotations. Now that I am in university I need to understand all of the thought processes that I took while I was taking notes and I need to learn from what I have written. This results in notes that are pretty, detailed, and usually short. However, the extent to which my notes and annotations go in-depth depends greatly on what type of material I am analyzing, whether it be textbooks, play texts, or films.

    While I was in high school my note taking was limited and artificial, I truly felt like the things that I was learning were not relevant to me and thus of no use in the future. I was extremely good at scribbling and doodling, come to think of it, I still am!

Irrelevant notes but they are messy and full of doodles.

Irrelevant notes, they are messy and full of doodles.

Most of what I wrote down in regards to play-texts was lengthy and therefore by the end of reading it I had lost track of what the key element was that I needed internalize. When I attempted to annotate a film in high school I usually had some details about the beginning then less and less as the film went on and by the end of the film I had absolutely nothing written down. I had never been taught what exactly I was expected to be looking for when I watched a film, therefore my annotations were exceedingly brief. This type of note taking and annotations are exactly what not to do if you have any intention of learning from them.

    Since I have graduated and transitioned into university my skill and attention to detail has grown immensely. When I am taking notes on a play-text, say for an english class, my notes are written all over the pages. I’ve never been concerned about defacing a piece of literature. I bought it therefore I’ll treat it however I like. My notes and annotation of anything on paper is very detailed. It is easy for me to explore every nook and cranny, write all over the paper, circle things, and color code. I have developed a keen eye in regards to the details and linguistic elements that I need to seek out when reading a source. Making annotations of play-texts, textbooks, and novels is second nature for me.

Annotation of Shakespeare, my university level of annotating.

Annotation of Shakespeare, my university level of annotating.

However when it comes to annotating films I find it extremely difficult. I would rather watch the film and enjoy it as opposed to analyze it. Although, with help from texts such as Shakespeare and Film: A Norton Guide by Samuel Crowl I have managed to hone in my ability to annotate films, even if that means I have to re-watch a scene ten times before I am able to see all the details and choices that went into making that specific scene! The more practice I have annotating play-texts and films the better my eyes seems to be at catching all the literary elements and underlying themes.

    There are an assortment of helpful sources I have used in order to improve my annotation skills. I have talked to friends and we have come up with different strategies, I used some of the resources that the university provides, such as the online seminars through the Student Success Center, and I have also improved my handwriting, (seems simple but it makes a huge difference when you can read what you’ve written). I feel my notes are successful when I have a lot of them, to me that feels as if I have explored every aspect of a play-text or a film. The more details I have written down the better I understood the source!