How to Take Good Notes

How To Take Good Notes

Today we are going to share with you a few things that will help you take better notes.

One thing that really helps with remembering the content of what you’re reading is writing a summary. This sounds like extra work but it really helps you understand the material you are taking notes on. When writing a summary start with the main idea; this should be the focus of  what you are writing about. Summaries should only be a couple of sentences so that when reviewing you don’t have to read all your notes. Lastly, in regard to summaries, we suggest writing them for confusing or longer notes, this will help to ensure your comprehension.

Another thing that really helps is to organize your notes is using colors and distinguishing marks. You don’t have to use many colors – maybe one or two at the least. We suggest underlining main ideas or important facts, this will help you study when reviewing your notes. When taking notes you can use colors to distinguish one section from another so it’s easier to look back on. A further method you can use is circling or marking areas that you need to work on to remind yourself what topics to study before a test.

When you take notes, being organized and concise are main focuses. It’s important to have key ideas, so when you go back to study you’re not confused as to what type of questions you’ll be trying to answer on a quiz or homework. Use different symbols (like * or -) to show the difference between headings and points made. You don’t always have to use color, so when you don’t have it, make sure to box and underline to help create borders between sections. Writing in cursive helps a lot because it’s faster than printing, so you’re given more time to make sure your notes give you the information you need.

Overall, notes are very important in our everyday school lives, so taking good ones are key to a successful education. There are many ways to do notes, these are just three ideas to help guide you into improving your own.

Immersion Languages

At Highland Park Senior High, there are two immersion language programs. One is Spanish Immersion, another is Chinese Immersion. The Spanish Immersion leader this year is Ms. Boe and the Chinese Immersion leader this year is Ms. Miao.

spanThe Spanish Immersion program is a program at the high school level for students who have gone through other immersion programs. The students are required to speak a high level of Spanish. The program has been with Highland for quite a long time now, 15 years or so.

The Spanish Immersion students came from different places. Some of the students are from Highland Middle, others are from Adam’s Spanish Immersion. There are also a few students from Cesar Chavez, River View, and Mexico.

There are 3 Freshmen classes, 3 Sophomore classes, 2 Junior classes, and 1 Senior class for Spanish Immersion learning. There are two other classes that are involved with the Spanish Immersion program, they are World History for Freshmen in the program,  and Human Geography for Sophomores.

During in the interview, I asked Ms. Boe how the year has been going so far. She replied that the year has been going really well; the students and staff are great.

I also asked her if she had any exciting plans for her students. Ms. Boe replied that she really wants to travel with them. She also had other fun plans such as Spanish speaking debates and family nights in the Spring.

doorThe Chinese Immersion program is a program offered to students who took Immersion Chinese before high school. The class is entirely taught in Mandarin Chinese. This year, there are 9 students in the program; 8 of them came from Ying Hua Academy which is a K-8 Chinese Immersion School. There are a few upperclassmen at Highland who went to Ying Hua Academy before and are now enrolled in Chinese 5 and 6.

This year is a year that is stretching the Chinese program with a lot of adjusting for Ms. Miao and her immersion students. The school culture and dynamics are different from their previous school, the approach to learning is also different to the students. Therefore, it is a process of adjusting for the teacher and students.

In the Chinese Immersion class, they are currently reading a contemporary literature piece, and are also working on a Chinese history project learning about different Chinese historical figures. The class will take a visit to St. Paul’s Jie Ming Chinese Immersion School to present their presentation in Chinese to the elementary students.

Ms. Lin who is currently teaching Chinese 1 and 2 will also be teaching science to Chinese Immersion students who come from Jie Ming the next year at the Middle School.

These are the two Immersion Languages at Highland Park Senior High.


Minnesota Public Radio visit

Last Friday, on October 21st, me and my good buddy Harley, both aspiring writers, went to the MPR headquarters in downtown St. Paul. I had realized that I probably wouldn’t be able to support myself as a fiction writer, so I thought about being a Political Scientist or a Journalist. My Uncle, Dave Kansas, invited me to a tour. He is the Vice President of MPR, and has published several books.

After being dropped off, me and Harley went through was apparently the back entrance. We went into the lobby, where we met the greeter, a man named Abdul. The lobby was an interesting mix of modern architecture. My Uncle came down to get us, and I introduced Harley to him.

We went up to his room, and offered us some candy from a huge bowl. There was a huge selection, including brands I’ve never seen before. While I did not take any I severely regret it now.

Up in his office, he showed us some metaphorical trophies before the real tour started. He had a political cartoon of himself, several famous articles he wrote back when he worked for the Wall Street Journal, a few posters. He then gave us a copy of one of his books, “The End of Wall Street as we know it.”

We then walked around, and he showed us the offices of many important people, and his army of researchers. I chatted with a few, desiring my interest in politics and fiction. A journalist told me that “it’s hard to tell the difference between the two in this day and age.”


MPR editing room

Then we met Tom Weber, and watched live as the editing team worked on an interview. Due to a bureaucratic blunder, we were called down to the lobby to wait for my Uncle, who came 20 minutes later asking where we were. When that cleared up, we went to talk to Jade and later a woman in charge of a reading program, snagging a few books. After that we left.

I would have to say it was a pleasant experience. I am lucky to have connections in the industry I plan to go into.

The IB Program

October, the time of year for tricks and treats, and signing up for International Baccalaureate – Diploma Program (IB DP) testing. Being an IB school, it’s safe to assume that the majority of eligible attending students will DP test, and many do. Despite the growing numbers of testing students, there is a constant gap between students of color testing, in comparison to caucasian students, a trend noticed by Highland Park’s Senior High School principal, Dr. Tucker.

When asked to comment on why caucasian students are more prominent in the DP classrooms, Dr. Tucker said, “Quite frankly, I think the biggest thing is working to really purposefully support and encourage more of our students of color to take advanced classes…Our focus is, and remains, having the support of more of our students of color are taking the advanced course work so they’re better prepared for college. That’s a challenge that we face, it’s a challenge that every Saint Paul school faces, and frankly is a challenge that is nation wide.”

How is this trend being addressed? Dr. Tucker explains that there are “Dreamline tutors for ninth graders,” and, reportedly, the DP program itself is attempting to counter the trend. The DP program does specific recruitment of students, through the teachers of DP classes, and 9th and 10th grade accelerated classes.

Highland Park IB DP coordinator, Charlotte Landreau, has been the IB DP coordinator for Highland Park since 2001. During her time, Ms. Landreau has noticed striking trends. “My first year it was fall 2001, and that spring, we had two full Diploma students. And I think a total of twenty-four kids testing. So last spring, in May 2016, we had thirty-four full Diploma kids and a total of 261 kids testing.” The significant spike in students registering to test is because “It took a while for teachers and students to feel confident they could do well on the tests,” says Ms. Landreau.

Since the founding of IB in 1968, there have been numerous revisions to the program, in attempt to create the ideal learning environment for all high school students. However, Ms. Landreau even admits that “[T]here is some trouble with the program. I actually believe it should be much more flexible…The program is designed to fit your school. I think, in the United States, it runs more parallel to being AP, which is more established, and stricter in terms of ‘like, it’s gotta be taught at this pace’.” This is in contrast to the popular IB philosophy that the program gives students and teachers the opportunity to take and teach the classes they want to. The goal is to give the students the opportunities to expand on their talents and interests.

Another goal for IB is to create a demographic reflection, comparing the IB testing students, and student population as a whole. Essentially, that means the IB program encourages all students to spend four years preparing for their tests, to at least give them a try. Highland has been progressing towards the International Baccalaureate goal of demographic reflection. Dr. Tucker stated, “It’s a continual challenge because some students feel they can’t do it, and that’s not true; it’s really a mind set. If you put your mind and effort to it, and you feel comfortable in the class, you can be successful in the class. It’s a lot of work though.”

Last year, of the 34% of full IB Diploma seniors testing, 31% identified as Asian, African-American, or Hispanic. Of all the juniors and seniors testing for the Honors Diploma, 35% identified as Asian, African-American, or Hispanic. Ms. Landreau assures all of the students that if you don’t do well on an exam, she will not send in the scores, and it will not impact your classroom grade.

Positively, due to budget changes, the Saint Paul Public School District has waived the fee for IB DP exams, originally $40 per exam, making it easier for students to test, and giving students the chance to be successful in an IB American High School in 2016. This new change may not last, as the budget is assessed on a yearly basis. Ms. Landreau, and other IB DP coordinators, are anticipating an answer for next year’s exams fee situation by February or March.

Even though SPPS has been accommodating in helping with the IB DP testing costs, other areas saw a decrease in funding. According to a faculty member of Highland Park Senior High School, there were reading classes offered two years ago, but due to budget cuts, Highland wasn’t able to keep that tool for struggling students.

The school district did take away a significant barrier for students, by making IB DP testing a completely risk-free, and free of cost, experience. However, the district has yet to prepare their students for these rigorous classes, and exams. The retraction of the reading classes has proved difficult for ELL students to receive specific support for their English literature skills.

Not only are there still obstacles for ELL students, but there are obstacles for all the students, obstacles that have yet to be observed by the school board. Obstacles include large class sizes, and not having remedial classes for students who need a little more support. Ms. Landreau observed that “by not setting systems in place that really helps every kid get there, we end up saying ‘you didn’t try hard enough, so you’re not prepared.’ And to a certain extent, people do have to try, but they have to feel supported as they try.”

Ms. Landreau encourages students to “always balance what you’re imgres.jpginterested in, and what all your other interests are ’cause I don’t think anything is worth being exhausted and stressed out. I just think you need to live your life. But taking a challenge when you can, and figuring out how to rise to that challenge, I think that’s a good life skill. So that’s why I think it’s important to take the classes. But I don’t think it’s a ‘everybody should do it, the whole way’. I think everybody should be encouraged to, and we should set up our classes so that kids can do well in them.”

To all the students of Highland Park Senior High, Ms. Landreau reminds them “There are other ways to be successful in an American high school in 2016.”

If you are interested, or have any more questions concerning IB DP testing your junior or senior year, you can talk to your counselor, Ms. Landreau, or visit for more information about IB DPexams.