Week 3: Strategic Reading
Assignment One – Nine Study Tips
Assignment Two – Active Reading
Read the following essay and then type an outline of the information.
Do you ever find your mind wandering while you read? Especially while reading an assignment in which you have no interest? One way to avoid mental minivacations and reduce the number of unscheduled naps during study time (especially after a hard day) is to use active reading strategies. With these strategies, you might actually spend less time on your reading but get more out of it.
Active Reading Phase 1—Before You Read
Active reading is a three-phase technique that includes strategies to use before, while, and after you read. Using these strategies will help you engage with the material more effectively and therefore remember more of what you read.
Step 1: Preview. Before you start reading, preview the entire assignment. You don’t have to memorize what you preview to get value from this step.
- Look over the table of contents and flip through the text page by page, if you are starting a new book. If you’re going to read one chapter, flip through the pages of that chapter.
- Read all chapter headings and subheadings.
- Keep an eye out for summary statements. If the assignment is long or complex, read the summary first.
- Seek out familiar concepts, facts, or ideas when previewing. These items can help increase comprehension by linking new information to previously learned material. Take a few moments to reflect on what you already know about the subject—even if you think you know nothing. This technique prepares your brain to accept new information.
- Look for ideas that spark your imagination or curiosity. Inspect drawings, diagrams, charts, tables, graphs, and photographs.
- Imagine what kinds of questions will show up on a test. Previewing helps to clarify your purpose for reading. Ask yourself what you will do with this material and how it can relate to your long-term goals.
- Keep your preview short. If the entire reading assignment will take less than an hour, your preview might take five minutes. Previewing is also a way to get yourself started when an assignment looks too big to handle. It is an easy way to step into the material.
Step 2: Outline. With complex material, you should take the time to understand the structure of what you are about to read. Outlining actively organizes your thoughts about the assignment and can help make complex information easier to understand.
- Spend some time studying the chapter outline in your textbook, if an outline is provided.
- Sketch a brief outline in the margin of the book or at the beginning of your notes on a separate sheet of paper, if an outline is not provided. Later, as you read and take notes, you can add to your outline. Headings in the text can serve as major and minor entries in your outline. The amount of time you spend on this outlining step will vary. For some assignments, a 10-second mental outline is all you might need. For other assignments (fiction and poetry, for example), you can skip this step altogether.
Step 3: Question. Before you begin a careful reading, determine what you want from the assignment.
- Write down a list of questions, including any questions that resulted from your preview of the materials.
- Turn chapter headings and subheadings into questions. For example, if a heading is “Transference and Suggestion,” you can ask yourself, What are transference and suggestion? How does transference relate to suggestion?
- Make up a quiz as if you were teaching this subject to your classmates.
- Write specific questions about a concept if you do not understand it. The more detailed your questions, the more powerful this technique becomes. You don’t need to answer every question that you ask. The purpose of making up questions is to get your brain involved in the assignment. Take your unanswered questions to class, where they can serve as springboards for class discussion.
Active Reading Phase 2—While You Read
Phase 1 of active reading is done before reading, but Phase 2 happens while you read, helping you figure out what you are looking for and setting up some context. This phase includes the following steps:
Step 4: Focus. You have previewed the reading assignment, organized it in your mind or on paper, and formulated questions. Now you are ready to begin reading. It’s easy to fool yourself about reading. Having an open book in your hand and moving your eyes across a page don’t mean that you are reading effectively. Reading takes mental focus. As you read, be conscious of where you are and what you are doing.
- To begin, get in a position to stay focused. If you observe chief executive officers, you’ll find that some of them wear out the front of their chair first. They’re literally on the edge of their seat. Approach your reading assignment in the same way. Sit up. Keep your spine straight. Avoid reading in bed, except for fun. Avoid marathon reading sessions. Schedule breaks, and set a reasonable goal for the entire session. Then, reward yourself with an enjoyable activity for 10 or 15 minutes every hour or two.
- For difficult reading, set more limited goals. Read for a half-hour and then take a break. Most students find that shorter periods of reading distributed throughout the day and week can be more effective than long sessions.
- Visualize the material. Form mental pictures of the concepts as they are presented. If you read that a voucher system can help control cash disbursements, picture a voucher handing out dollar bills. Using visual imagery in this way can help deepen your understanding of the text while allowing information to be transferred into your long-term memory.
- Read the material out loud, especially if it is complicated. Some of us remember better and understand more quickly when we hear an idea. Get a feel for the subject. For example, let’s say you are reading about a microorganism—a paramecium—in your biology text. Imagine what it would feel like to run your finger around the long, cigar-shaped body of the organism. Imagine feeling the large fold of its gullet on one side and the tickle of the hairy little cilia as they wiggle in your hand.
- In addition, predict how the author will answer your key questions. Then read to find out if your predictions were accurate.
Step 5: Flag answers. As you read, seek out the answers to your questions. You are a detective, watching for every clue. When you do find an answer, flag it so that it stands out on the page. Deface your books. Flag answers by highlighting, underlining, writing comments, filling in your outline, or marking up pages in any other way that helps you. Indulge yourself as you never could with your grade school books.
Marking up your books offers other benefits. When you read with a highlighter, pen, or pencil in your hand, you involve your kinesthetic senses of touch and motion. Being physical with your books can help build strong neural pathways in your memory. You can mark up a text in many ways. For example:
- Place an asterisk (*) or an exclamation point (!) in the margin next to an especially important sentence or term.
- Circle key terms and words to look up later in a dictionary.
- Write short definitions of key terms in the margin.
- Write a Q in the margin to highlight possible test questions, passages you don’t understand, and questions to ask in class.
- Write personal comments in the margin—points of agreement or disagreement with the author.
- Write mini-indexes in the margin—that is, the numbers of other pages in the book where the same topic is discussed.
- Write summaries in your own words.
- Rewrite chapter titles, headings, and subheadings so that they’re more meaningful to you.
- Draw diagrams, pictures, tables, or maps that translate text into visual terms.
- Number each step in a list or series of related points.
- In the margins, write notes about the relationships between elements in your reading. For example, note connections between an idea and examples of that idea.
- If you infer an answer to a question or come up with another idea of your own, write that down as well. Avoid marking up a textbook too soon. Wait until you complete a chapter or section to make sure you know the key points and then mark it up. Sometimes, flagging answers after you read each paragraph works best.
Also remember that the purpose of making marks in a text is to call out important concepts or information that you will review later. Flagging key information can save lots of time when you are studying for tests.
With this in mind, highlight or underline sparingly—usually less than 10 percent of the text. If you mark up too much on a page, you defeat the purpose: to flag the most important material for review. Finally, jot down new questions, and note when you don’t find the answers you are looking for. Ask these questions in class, or see your instructor personally. Demand that your textbooks give you what you want—answers.
Active Reading Phase 3—After You Read
Phase 3. This phase happens after you read and includes the following steps:
Step 6: Recite. Talk to yourself about what you’ve read. Or talk to someone else. When you finish a reading assignment, make a speech about it. When you recite, you practice an important aspect of metacognition—synthesis, or combining individual ideas and facts into a meaningful whole. One way to recite is to look at each underlined point. Note what you marked; then, put the book down and start talking out loud. Explain as much as you can about that particular point. To make this technique more effective, do it in front of a mirror. It might seem silly, but the benefits can be enormous. Reap them at exam time.
A related technique is to stop reading periodically and write a short, free-form summary of what you just read. In one study, this informal “retrieval practice” helped students recall information better than other study techniques did (Karpicke and Blunt 2011).
Classmates are even better than mirrors. Form a group to practice teaching one another what you have read. One of the best ways to learn anything is to teach it to someone else. In addition, talk about your reading whenever you can. Tell friends and family members what you’re learning. Talking about your reading reinforces a valuable skill—the ability to summarize. To practice this skill, pick one chapter (or one section of one chapter) from any of your textbooks. State the main topic covered in the chapter. Then, state the main points that the author makes about the topic.
Step 7: Review. Plan to do your first complete review within 24 hours of reading the material. Sound the trumpets! This point is critical: A review within 24 hours moves information from your short-term memory to your long-term memory. Review within one day. If you read it on Wednesday, review it on Thursday. During this review, look over your notes and clear up anything you don’t understand. Recite some of the main points. This review can be short. You might spend as little as 15 minutes reviewing a difficult two-hour reading assignment. Investing that time now can save you hours later when studying for exams.
Step 8: Review again. This final step can be very short—perhaps only four or five minutes per assignment. Simply go over your notes. Read the highlighted parts of your text. Recite one or two of the more complicated points. The purpose of these reviews is to keep the neural pathways to the information open and to make them more distinct. That way, the information can be easier to recall. You can accomplish these short reviews anytime, anywhere, if you are prepared. Sometimes, longer review periods are appropriate. For example, if you found an assignment difficult, consider rereading it. Start over, as if you had never seen the material before. Sometimes, a second reading will provide you with surprising insights.
Decades ago, psychologists identified the primacy-recency effect, which suggests that we most easily remember the first and last items in any presentation (Pineño and Miller 2005). Previewing and reviewing your reading can put this theory to work for you.
Dealing with Challenging Texts
Successful readers monitor their understanding of reading material. They do not see confusion as a mistake or a personal shortcoming. Instead, they take it as a cue to change reading strategies and process ideas at a deeper level. Read it again. Somehow, students get the idea that reading means opening a book and dutifully slogging through the text—line by line, page by page—moving in a straight line from the first word to the last. Feel free to shake up your routine.
Make several passes through tough reading material. During a preview, for example, just scan the text to look for key words and highlighted material. Next, skim the entire chapter or article again, spending a little more time and taking in more than you did during your preview. Finally, read in more depth. Read it out loud. Make noise. Read a passage out loud several times, each time using a different inflection and emphasizing a different part of the sentence. Be creative. Imagine that you are the author talking. Use another text. Find a similar text in the library. Sometimes a concept is easier to understand if it is expressed another way. Children’s books—especially children’s encyclopedias—can provide useful overviews of baffling subjects. Talk to someone who can help. Admit when you are stuck. Then, bring questions about reading assignments to classmates and members of your study group.
Also, contact your instructor. Most teachers welcome the opportunity to work individually with students. Be specific about your confusion. Point out the paragraph that you found toughest to understand.
Assignment Three & Four
Personal Dictionary Word #2
Latin Roots Quiz #2
|corpus||body||corpse, corporation, corpuscle|
|cede||yield||concede, recede, intercede|
|chron||time||chronic, chronicle, chronological|
|cogni||know||recognize, cognition, incognito|
|cracy||rule||autocrat, democracy, aristocracy|
|cred||believe||incredible, credit, credible|
|cept||take||accept, receptive, concept|