Back to School Season

Posted Aug 22 2011, 1:47 pm in , , , , , ,

Hey, Kids!

Here’s a great¬†organization technique I learned in tenth grade and still use today. It’s called the notebook table of contents.

I can hear you all groaning but wait, don’t click out of the site until you read the whole thing. I promise, it’s worth it.

Do you like math? What about history? I’m not a fan. I do, however, like good grades. So studying the right material when test time rolled around sold me on this technique. I learned it from my tenth grade geometry teacher and still use it today. Here’s all you have to do:

  1. Open a brand new notebook and count about five pages in. This is your Table of Contents.
  2. Fold the sixth page down to use as a divider.
  3. On the seventh page, number the top right corner starting with 2.
  4. Number all right-side corners until you hit the end of the book.
  5. Go back to the five pages you skipped. In the left margin, number each line from 1 to 25 or whenever you reach the bottom of the page. It helps to stop on a number like 25, though.
  6. When you take notes in class, go to the first available blank page and find out what page number it is. Go to your TOC, find the line number that matches the page number and jot down the date and the topic like The Louisiana Purchase, or The Pythagorean Theorem. For example, suppose your notes on the Pythagorean Theorem start on page 11 and end on 17. In your TOC, on line 11, you’d write today’s date, “The Pythagorean Theorem.” During the next class, you begin taking notes on Heron’s Formula and see that page 18 is where you ended the previous day’s notes. You’d go to your TOC and put the date beside line 18 and the topic. You can now tell at a glance that your notes on the Pythagorean Theorem go from 11 to 17.

When I first did this in tenth grade, the entire class grumbled, rolled their eyes, protested what we assumed was the biggest, dorkiest thing a teacher could make us do.

Until it came time for our first test.

Suddenly, it was a miracle. If you needed to study more on Isocoles Triangles, you went to the TOC, looked up what pages in your notebook contained those notes and you were done. If a pal was out sick and needed Tuesday’s notes, you knew exactly what pages to share for Tuesday.

At the end of the year, when we were preparing for the state exam, it was easy to go back and review the topics on which we scored low during practice tests.

This technique worked so well for me, I continue using it today. At my technical writing day job, I write instruction guides for five different applications. I meet with developers, QA analysts, and my boss regularly. I spent about ten minutes whenever I unwrap a new notebook to number all my pages. When someone asks me about a meeting that took place nine days ago, I look up the meeting in my table of contents, flip directly to the pages where I jotted down those notes and BAM! Done.

I also use it when researching ideas for my fiction. For example, when I was writing SEND, I collected a number of news stories about sexting, cyberbullying and suicide. Taking a few seconds to cite what I read, where I found it, and when, saved me hours of wasted time later.

Good luck in school!




2 responses to “Back to School Season”

  1. I wish I’d had your tenth grade geometry teacher!

  2. Jeannie Moon says:

    I’ve been in the teaching biz for years and never learned that organizing method. Brilliant! Thanks for sharing!