have one chance to hear and observe the lecturer. Therefore, you
must listen and look sharply from the moment the lecturer begins.
The lecturer may announce the topic of the lecture and her/his purposes
in the opening moments. If you are organized and ready to listen
and take notes before the lecture begins, you will have a positive
1. Prepare to listen. Your attitude
in attending class is of major importance. If you feel
that a particular lecture is a waste of time, you will
be in no mood to listen. You should decide before a lecture
that your class time will be well spent as a learning
2. Pay attention to questions. The questions
put forth by students and the instructors are important parts
of the classroom learning experience. When the instructor asks
a question, s/he is usually discussing something of importance
and trying to make a point. When you or other students make
inquiries, you signal the instructor that the message isn't
clear. Both types of questions will serve to clarify lecture
material and both types may appear on quizzes or tests. Write
3. Listen for clues in what the speaker
says to help you decipher what is important - a clue or
phrase that literally states in advance that something
important is going to be said, for example, "Here's the key..." or "One
significant reason for this is..."
4. Repetition. Repeated information is
probably worth noting. "Once again...," "As I said before...," or "In
5. Issues. Points of controversy or contrasting
ideas make excellent essay questions! "Some people feel
that..., but others...."
6. Consensus information that is presented
as accepted by all is usually important and should be taken
down. "Experts agree...."
7. Absolutes. Few things in life are absolute,
so note words that signal absolutes: "always,"
"never," "all," "everyone," "none," etc.
8. Review. A review should itemize
key points, so jot these down: "In summary...," "In
conclusion...," or "So, to sum all of this
The following are some suggestions for close and careful observation
during a lecture.
1. Gestures: Watch for pointing, waving
arms, tapping on the chalkboard, etc. These can signal
2. Change in movement: If the lecturer is
sitting and then stands, or is leaning and then walks, or is
pacing and then stops, she or he could be making an important
3. Facial expressions: Watch the face for
raised eyebrows, grimaces, or intense staring. Any of these
can mean business.
4. Changes in volume: Be aware of the voice
going from soft to loud, or loud to soft. The lecturer may
do this to get attention.
5. Changes in tempo: A lecturer may slow down
or speed up to emphasize a point.
6. Obvious pause: There may suddenly be
a complete stop in the presentation. This is a "loaded silence" and
is usually followed by important information.
7. Writing on the board: Some instructors,
the "nice" ones, put the most important information
on the board. Anything ever written on the board during a lecture
is worth copying down into your notes.