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.

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.

Mirabelle Harris-Eze: Notes Reflection

“We all do ‘do, re, mi,’ but you have got to find the other notes yourself.”

~ Louis Armstrong


While most notes include summaries and interpretation of data, the way these occur on the page differ from person to person. My marketing textbook describes analysis as the conversion of data into insight, and this analysis is always made easier for me through taking notes. Today, I want to look at textual data and visual data, especially in regards to play-texts and films. My annotation practices when reading and observing both art forms differ and converge in methodology.

Annotation Practices – Play-Texts

An aversion to manipulating physical copies of a text, due to the majority of the texts that I have ever read being library loans, means that my copies of Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing are void of  highlighting, underlines and scribbles. I hope to grow out of this aversion, as I have to come to understand—over taking two English classes this semester and talking to classmates—that margin notes taken in the physical copy of a text have numerous benefits such as ease of reference and direct linking of ideas without having to write them all out. Currently, with my aversion still present, I write detailed notes about play-texts in a separate notebook.

As Play-Texts are a form of Literature, I am very conscious of literary devices when taking notes. I note:

  1. Literary Devices (Symbolism, Simile, etc.)
  2. Quotes or words I enjoy/I don’t understand
  3. Context I might need to look into further

I also try to go beyond simply addressing the existence of the above but: in the case of literary terms, discussing the effects of the devices used; with words I can’t decipher, looking them up; and context I am clueless about, researching more. All of this additional information is jotted down.

Annotation Practices – Film

When watching film, there are numerous aspects to keep in mind as I write my notes in a notebook. Unlike with textual works, I have less academic experience with writing notes when watching films. This class has been a large factor in my better understanding of interpreting film. When writing notes during the various films we’ve seen throughout ENGL 311, there are specific things I look for:

  1. Film Techniques (such as type of shots, editing cuts, etc.)
  2. Actors (A-List, relationship to director/producer, etc.)
  3. Lines or words I enjoy/don’t understand
  4. Context I might need to look into further

After numerous English classes that taught how to read literature, the process of annotation and interpretation of texts flows quickly and lengthily. The same cannot be said for film. These notes tend to be more sparse, especially because when watching scenes from a film in a classroom or theater-like setting, it is not possible/too time-consuming to pause to write down lengthy observations.

General Note Taking and Inquiry and Determining Success


An example of my note-taking.

I like to see how several small ideas connect over large chunks of text or video. Thus, when I write notes, my handwriting tends to be very minute and cramped. The more text I can cram on a page, the more ideas I can relate and compare. I also utilize arrows, models, and different text colors to relate ideas, differentiate headings or highlight important words and concepts. For taking notes for texts and films, I try to develop a character map listing out the cast of characters, along with their characteristics, and how they relate to each other.

There are two different things I look at when trying to tell if I’ve had a successful note-taking session:

  1. I understand the material better and this understanding resonates across all additional analysis.
  2. When I look back at my notes, I can understand them in nearly the same capacity as when I wrote them down.


My note taking is often intensely meticulous, cramped, colorful and done in a specific notebook with lined paper. My approach when taking notes when reading play-texts and when watching film differ and converge. Notes on play-texts tend to be lengthier and more in-depth. Both require brief summaries, analysis of textual and visual devices, and, later on, external research.


mira-shadowMirabelle Harris-Eze is an 18 year-old student based in Calgary, Alberta. Sometime in the near future, she wishes to publish a book written entirely in the language of her ancestors, Igbo. One day she hopes to fill this bio with writing credentials, and accolades. For now, this will have to do.

Hilary James: Notes Reflection

When reading Shakespeare, there are certain steps I tend to follow in order to best analyze the text. While the order and specifics of the steps may differ depending on what, when, and why I am reading, the general idea remains.

Before I dive right into the first line of a scene, I recap for myself what has just happened in the preceding scene, so I can put the scene I am about to read into context with the rest of the play. Then, I check where and when the scene occurs, as well as what characters will be involved so I can try and picture a setting in my head. Now, I read through the scene easily once, to get the general idea of what is happening, the mood, and basic character dynamics. Usually, I have a pretty vague idea of what is going on and have many questions at this point. Then, I go back and re-read, this time taking the time to decipher what is happening line by line. If I do not understand what the character is trying to say, I will use a dictionary if needed, look at the footnotes, and look at the context of the quote. For example, I can often decipher what a character is asking by looking at the response.

Once I have deciphered a good chunk of dialogue, I check and see if I can paraphrase what I just read. Usually, my paraphrasing is extremely informal, and for some reason the characters always turn into something resembling sassy teenagers. For example, when deciphering Act I, Scene I of Much Ado About Nothing, this is how I paraphrased part of the dialogue in my head:

So, Claudio is all like “OMG Hero is like so amazing. Benedick, isn’t she amazing?” And Benedick is like “Nah dude I don’t see it, she’s lame. Her cousin is like ‘aight, but I am never gonna marry anyways so whatevs” and Claudio is like “HA yeah right dude we’ll see about that”


If I can’t paraphrase it like that, it usually means that I don’t understand it enough. Finally, I go back again and read word by word. This time I try to detect language devices, patterns in word choice, words that can have a double-meaning, personification, metaphors, etc. This step may need to be repeated several times. Using this information I can start to uncover themes being illustrated and characterization that is occuring; in other words, why is Shakespeare writing this scene? Why is it important? I often get to this point by typing out all of the notes I have made along the way (I only write minimal notes on the actual pages) so I can see what ideas my thoughts are pointing to. This step is most important and helpful, but the beginning steps are necessary to get here.

When analyzing a Shakespeare movie, the process is relatively similar. Firstly, I go back and re-watch several times- if not the entire movie, then specific scenes. Secondly, I move from larger idea questions (e.g. What is the plot?) to more specific questions (e.g. Why did the director make this editing choice? Why did Shakespeare make this language choice?). The first time I watch a movie is largely for pleasure, and so I can get the general idea of plot and theme- which is usually much easier to catch on to the first time watching versus the first time reading. After it is over I ask myself about my feelings toward the movie, what stood out, and why.

The second time I watch, I take detailed notes on editing, music/score, camera work, setting, and acting. The second time through is much easier to understand how themes and characterization is developed, use of foreshadowing, and director’s choices because you can focus on the details rather than the plot. Finally, I would go back and re-watch specific scenes I feel are important to catch anything I may have missed and analyze in detail. Often, once I have noted all my ideas, I will go online to get more information about the director, actors and setting, and perhaps read other peoples reviews and opinions in order to get a fresh perspective.

If I take the take to thoroughly complete all of these steps, they wield excellent results. However, if I don’t take the time to go back several times, or dig as deep as I could- I will have an unclear final result.

Marisol Calzada: Notes Reflection

Note taking for me has always been fairly difficult. In grade school I always struggled with finding a note taking style that worked for me; I remember using a different style of note taking every month along with different pens, highlighters, tabs, etc. Nothing seemed to work until I got into university. University courses made me realize that not only am I a visual learner, but I learn and remember best through repetition.

For me note taking had been very traditional, using a notebook and a pen; recently I started taking notes on my iPad Pro and it’s been working so well for me because I can split the screen between my note taking app and other resources I’m using. In this class I have found that my note taking has changed throughout the semester. At first I would write down everything that was on the powerpoint slides shown in class, and as the course progressed I learned how to decipher the notes and jot down the most important points presented.

Annotating on an iPad

Taking notes while reading a Shakespeare play-text is a little more challenging for me. I can’t read the text like I normally would a book and that frustrates me. I have to break the text down into sections – usually by the characters dialogue. After I break the text down, I read it “normally” the first time and then again a second time trying to understand the overall meaning of the passage. After I grasped the vague understanding of the passage, I like to paraphrase in regular English. Then I go line by line highlighting-underlining anything I believe is important to the passage. I start by mapping out the rhythm of the lines, and then I start circling ”hidden” things like alliterations, assonances, repetitions, etc. or other writing techniques Shakespeare has used. This type of reading takes me a long time because I feel like Shakespeare’s writing has a lot of hidden elements that require more than just imagination and literacy. By the time I am done with the passage, there are circles, lines, arrows, and writing all over it. For some it may seem like there is an excess of writing on it, but like I previously mentioned, I’m a visual learner and all the writing helps me keep my ideas and thoughts organized.

Taking notes on a film is a very different experience for me. Like most people, when I watch a movie I want to enjoy it rather than take notes on it; but on the occasion that I have to write annotations I start by reading a synopsis of the movie so I know what the general plot is about. When it comes to Shakespeare storylines in films, I like to understand how the characters are connected to each other; this helps to understand the plot. I tend to pay too much attention to the film and forget to write notes, so I make “mental notes” about scenes that I believe are important. The music in the movie helps me determine which scenes are more important than others because music guides our emotions. After I watch the movie and I have a good understanding of the plot, I can go back and find a specific scene and pause/rewind it if I need to analyze it a bit more.

If I ever need to compare a play-text and a film of the play, I always start by annotating the play-text first and then I will watch the movie. By annotating the play-text first, I am able to dissect the meaning of the texts while imagining the story line in my head. I believe that’s what helps me decipher the differences the director makes in the film because I have already created “a film” of my own in my head and if it doesn’t match up then the differences stick out to me.

I know my annotations have been successful if I can paraphrase the play-text/film to another person, or if I can have an in-depth discussion about the play-text/film. I believe more times out of none, my play-text annotations are more successful because I have the ability to reread and “marinate” my brain in the words that are right in front of me, which give me the liberty to go at my own pace. Film annotations are more difficult because the pace of the story-line is much faster and frequently pausing the film can take away from the experience the director intended his audience to have.

Kirsten Cordingley: Notes Reflection

When annotating a play-text, we are able to focus on a specific line, phrase, or word before heading to the next, while when taking notes for a film, we are writing about a moment that is already passing. That is, unless we choose to frequently pause the movie. In this way, note taking for texts and movies requires a break amidst the action, but I personally find that annotating texts is less jarring than pausing films to take notes.

While watching films for this class, I start with a focus on the characters. Since films interpret Shakespeare’s text differently, often the actors and actresses will not portray a Shakespearean character as I imagined them when reading the text. I will often open up a different tab on my laptop with the cast list, so that I know who’s who in the film, which is especially helpful if I’m not very familiar with the text. As the plot unfolds, I will make character charts to show how people relate to each other. For example, drawing arrows and hearts to indicate who is in love and who is related.


I note differences in the film in relation to the text, and often have the play opened, whether in book form or online, while watching. Considering what the director changes or highlights helps to understand the message or moments they try to emphasize. For example, in Throne of Blood there is only one witch character, rather than the three Weird Sisters that are in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. However, while I do take note of Shakespeare’s text when watching films adapted from his plays, I also stay aware that these films are fullsizerender-2an independent and unique creation. I pay attention to camera angles, editing, music, and acting. While doing my film review, I made notes along the way regarding anything that stuck out to me regarding these elements. For example, I took note of the music and animation choices used with the character Prospero in Taymor’s The Tempest.

When annotating play-texts, I find it helpful to summarize the footnotes in the margins beside the word or lines it applies to. This way I can reread the lines without having to look down at the footnotes. I underline things that stand out to me as important, and put question marks beside things that I don’t fully understand, often to bring them up to a classmate or professor later on. I also put a star beside passages or lines if I believe them to be significant in meaning, or applicable to a particular argument or analysis I am forming in an assignment or essay. I add notes in the margins to summarize events or explain things like symbolism. If I am close reading a passage for a paper, I will go through the passage after having read it a few times already and count the syllables in each line to see whether there is any significance in the line length. For example, in my close reading paper of the Chorus that opens Act 4 in Henry V, I noticed that Shakespeare strays from iambic pentameter in a particular line, which helped me to note his emphasis on a certain point. Similarly, I will go through and look at the ends of each line for any sort of rhyming, because often words are rhymed to point the readers attention to a particular detail.


The main problem I have when watching a film or reading a text for class is getting too engrossed in the story and forgetting to annotate or make notes. In this case, to ensure that I am successful with helping myself with assignments, or future exams, I have to go back and slowly read or watch while annotating. I heavily connect how well I comprehend the text or movie to how successful my annotating and note taking were. If I have a well-formed discussion about the movie or play, or write a well-formed paper, then I know I have succeeded in taking concise and helpful notes. Whereas, if I feel I did not understand the text or movie, or have trouble picking out any meaning, I know I have to go back and annotate and note take more, paying attention to things that I didn’t the first time.

Note Reflection

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.

Close Reading Notes

Close Reading Notes – Brain Dump on Page Right

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.

Film Review Notes

Film Review Notes

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

Interesting frame composition sketches

Interesting frame composition sketches


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.