You have several options for reviewing or revising your notes. Some students type the notes up, and print them up for easy reference, while others just look them over after class and transfer important detail to other tracking devices. Whichever mode of review you prefer, the important thing is that you look over your notes while the lecture is still fresh in your mind. If you have questions, you need to get them answered before you forget what was confusing or hard-to-understand.
Just because it doesn't make sense to you doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you, and you shouldn't feel embarrassed or awkward about asking questions. If you don't feel comfortable asking questions from the teacher from your literature class, there may be another place you can go: a friend, the library, a reference book, a classmate, or another literature teacher.
Here are a few additional points to consider
- Collect your notes in one place. Usually a three-ring binder is the best place, because you can keep your notes with your course outline, class handouts, returned homework assignments, and returned tests.
- Don't jot your notes down in a little notebook. It's easier to miss important information when you have lots of little pieces of paper to flip through.
- Use a highlighter, or some system of making the text stand out. You'll want to make sure that you don't miss the details the teacher gives you about assignments, and tests. If you highlight important items, make sure that you don't highlight EVERYTHING. The emphasis for important items is thus lost.
- Be sure to make note of examples. If the teacher is talking about a quest, and then talks about "Tom Jones," you'll want to make note of it, particularly if you know that reading from that book will be coming up shortly. You may not always understand the context of the discussion if you haven't yet read the work, but it's still important to note that the work is connected with the quest theme.
- Review your notes, and not just the day before your final exam. Take a look at them periodically throughout the course. You may see patterns that you never noticed before. You may better understand the structure and progression of the course: where the teacher is going, and what he or she expects you to have learned by the time the class is over.
- If this is your first literature class, you may not know what is important, and what to disregard. If you're ever in doubt, write it down! Your wrist might get sore, but that happens anyway if you're writing for hours and hours every day. You'll get used to the process of taking notes, and you'll get better at it. Taking notes really is a skill, but it also depends on the teacher. Sometimes it's difficult to tell whether the statement is important, or just an offhanded remark. If all else fails, and you're confused or uncertain about whether you're understanding what is expected of you in the course, ask the teacher. The teacher is the EXPERT, and he or she is the person who is giving you a grade (in most situations).
- The other point I want to make is: We're here to learn. That's why I took the classes that I signed up for... I wanted to learn more about literature, and I just happened to get a degree in something that I really enjoy. Literature should be an enjoyable experience. Of course, to pass the course, you need to understand the material, to pass the tests, to write the required papers, and to participate in class (as required), but it's all supposed to be getting us to the point where we really understand where literature came from (the history, style, and origins) so we can understand where literature has been progressing, how our ideas have been progressing (and how some of our ideas have lasted the test of time--themes told and retold over the ages).