Note Taking in English – PART 3 of 7: Non-verbal Cues

Hello lovely language learners! Morksensei here. In this post we’re going to continue our series on note-taking. In part 2 we talked about 4 verbal cues, or hints, given by a lecturer that can remind you what is important and what you should write down. Do you remember what they are?

Verbal cues are all the things that a lecturer says. However, it’s useful to pay careful attention not only to a lecturer’s verbal cues, but also how the lecturer speaks to help you decide what to write in your notes. These non-verbal cues are what I’m going to share here.

Non-verbal cues include tone of voice, talking speed and intonation, gestures, and facial expressions.

Tone of voice tells you the emotion of the speaker  – if they’re serious, light-hearted, sarcastic, excited, or any other emotion. This influences the meaning of the lecture.

Talking speed and intonation can also reveal (or show) if something is important to record. For example, if the lecturer pauses or slows down, this might be done to emphasize (or stress) a main point or to show that the topic is going to change. If intonation rises at the end of a sentence, perhaps this is where the lecturer wants you to think about something.

Gestures are very powerful tools that lecturers often use to communicate meaning. For example, if you notice how a lecturer stands or moves their arms, it could help you become better able to better predict the overall meaning of something, even if you don’t understand everything they’re saying.

Similarly, a lecturer’s facial expressions also carry a lot of meaning. Raised eyebrows, a wink, a smile – might be able to inform you more than words, in many cases.

Now of course, non-verbal communication can be specific to a speaker’s culture and their individual characteristics, so there’s a lot to cover, and I won’t go into any more details here. For now, just know that there are several  types of lecture cues. Knowing just that can help you to be aware when you try to follow a lecture and make decisions about what you need to write in your lecture notes. Once again, the main types are organization cues, information cues, relation cues, discourse cues, and – the point of this video today – non-verbal cues.

Next time you listen to a lecture in English, try to listen for these cues. Knowing what to record can be really challenging. But listening for cues will help you. Note-taking is a skill, and you probably won’t be good at it in the beginning. For that reason, if you’re wondering, “Should I write that down?” I suggest that yes, you should, but… KISS (not kiss – not  the gesture). KISS stands for “Keep It Short and Simple.

And here is a bonus tip: If you notice that your teacher has repeated the same information twice or more, or has repeated something that was discussed previously, write it down – circle it, underline it, do something to tell your brain to pay attention. It’s probably important if the teacher repeats something.

OK, so far in this series we’ve covered tools for note-taking, verbal cues, and non-verbal cues. The non-verbal cues I shared in this post include tone of voice, talking speed and intonation, gestures, and facial expressions. In the next post, we’ll go over how to actually record your notes. To do that, you’ll need a system.

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