School Stuff: How I Use Those Notebooks and Pens

So how do I use my notebooks? I used to take notes on both sides of every page of my notebooks. I did a little research on the Cornell method and attempted it during my summer class but it didn’t fit with my style of note taking and reflection. It really didn’t fit with the composition books I chose. The comp books were simply too small to effectively use the Cornell method. My method uses color coding, post it notes and tabs, codes, and headings.

I take class notes, reflect on my readings, and journal about classes and experientials on the right side page. Any ink color can be used on these pages, but I usually avoid red. Each page gets a “code” in the upper right hand corner to indicate what is on the page:

R= Reading reflections

C= Class notes

J= Journal

G= Group work
E- Experiential

At the top of each page, in the larger line I add a subject line and date. If the class that day is a about CBT Therapy then that is the subject line. If the page is reflections on a reading then the title and author go on the top line of the page. If I’m journaling about an experiential paper, or particular idea then the name of the experiential or idea is indicated on the top “subject” line.


While I’m reading I don’t take notes but highlight. If I think something is of particular importance I will write it down on a post it note or put a tab next to the area in the book. I’ll write in the margins of books I plan to keep or of printed articles. The post it notes are stuck on the right side page opposite of my reading reflection pages. I time my reading reflections to 5 minutes and try to keep the reflection to one or 2 pages. The goal in the reflection is to get down my ideas about the article, any criticism I had, and to get a general idea of the contents. I also make note of what I think the professor is hoping I get out of the reading. This timed method was suggested during a workshop about managing the readings for class, and thus far it has worked really well for me.  I’m not filling up a dozen pages per reading, and I’m not wasting a lot of time focusing on information that is not pertinent to the class.

The left hand page is generally left blank during notes and journaling. If a professor gives out specific information about an assignment, I’ll make note of if on the left side. This acts as a call out. I use the left side to reflect on things that come up during class, experientials, journaling, and readings. These are specifically my ideas and differentiated from journaling that I do on experientials. These can be spontaneous ideas that pop into my head as I read and reflect on articles. These reflections are always done in red ink to differentiate it from any specific info given out by the professor.

If I am going to use a particular page for a paper it gets a blue post it tab. These are removed after the paper is finished. My current page gets a green or yellow post it flag mostly so I can flip to it quickly when I get to class or I need to reflect on a reading.

Occasionally when I have a paper coming up for class I’ll sit down and do a mind map of all the ideas that come up from the questions the professor asks, I will then use the mind map as a launching point for any journaling I do for the paper. The mind map will span the left and right side of the pages.

On the inside front cover of each of these notebooks I’ve made a pocket so I can stuff in any handouts or art made during class. This has been working pretty well so far. Though most of my classes do not have hand outs but a few of the workshops I’ve attended have. The pockets have proved useful.

This is an evolving method. I’d abandoned some things- like highlighting within my notes and simply moving to whatever ink color I’m using that day and red. In some of my notebooks I remembered to leave a page blank at the start, and wish I’d done it for all of them, this will allow me to index the notebook when I shelve it. When I do shelve it I add a label to the spin indicating what class the notebook was for and what dates I used it. The idea is that I’m able to quickly go back to class notes and refer to them as needed. The other really positive thing about this method is that it is cheap. I’m using a 50 cent notebook, a pack of colored post it tabs, some post it notes, and several colors of pens. It could be done with only 2 ink colors if you really wanted to pair it down.

Anyway, that’s how I use all those notebooks and pens I wrote about in my last few posts. I should probably stick the school stuff on one particular day of the week but it is my life right now so, yeah, my blog reflects my life. 😛