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By: Dr. Bill Klemm 1) Know Your Purpose Everyone should have a purpose for their reading and think about how that purpose is being fulfilled during the actual reading. The advantage for remembering is that checking continuously for how the purpose is being fulfilled helps the reader to stay on task, to focus on the more relevant parts of the text, and to rehearse continuously as one reads. This also saves time and effort because relevant items are most attended. Identifying the purpose should be easy if you freely choose what to read. Just ask yourself, “Why am I reading this?” If it is to be entertained or pass the time, then there is not much problem. But myriad other reasons could apply, such as: o to understand a certain group of people, such as Muslims, Jews, Hindus, etc. o to crystallize your political position, such as why a given government policy should be opposed. o to develop an informed plan or proposal. o to satisfy a requirement of an academic course or other assigned reading. Many of us have readings assigned to us, as in a school environment. Or the boss may hand us a manual and say “Here. We need you to read this.” Whether the order comes from a teacher or boss, we need to ask, “What do you want me to learn from this?” In the absence of such guidance, you should still formulate your best guess about what you should learn and remember from the reading. 2) Skim First Some reading tasks require no more than skimming. Proper skimming includes putting an emphasis on the headings, pictures, graphs, tables, and key paragraphs (which are usually at the beginning and the end). Depending on the purpose, you should slow down and read carefully only the parts that contribute to fulfilling the reading purpose. Even material that has to be studied carefully should be skimmed first. The benefits of skimming first are that the skimming: 1) primes the memory, making it easier to remember when you read it the second time, 2) orients the thinking, helping you to know where the important content is in the document, 3) creates an overall sense and gestalt for the document, which in turn makes it easier to remember certain particulars. Browsing on the Internet encourages people to skim read. The way content is handled on the Web is even causing writers to make wider use of Web devices, such as numbered or bulleted lists, sidebars, graphics, text boxes and sidebars. But the bad news is that the Web style makes it even harder to learn how to read in-depth; that is, the Web teaches us to skim, creating bad reading habits for in-depth reading. 3) Get the Mechanics Right For in-depth reading, eyes need to move in a disciplined way. Skimming actually trains eyes to move without discipline. When you need to read carefully and remember the essence of large blocks of text, the eyes must snap from one fixation point to the next in left- to right-sequence. Moreover, the fixations should not be one individual letters or even single words, but rather on
But many students either highlight too much or highlight the wrong things. o Snap eyes from one fixation point to another (horizontal snaps on long lines. 4) Be Judicious in Highlighting and Note Taking Use a highlighter to mark a FEW key points to act as the basis for mental pictures and reminder cues. you have to think about what the words mean. They become so preoccupied in marking up the book that they don’t pay enough attention to what they are reading. and how it fits with important material that preceded it. Then work on four per line. I know from personal experience with such machines that they can increase reading speed markedly without a cost in lower comprehension. Add key words in the margins if you don’t find useful clues to highlight. I am not arguing against phonics. Among the key tactics for good mechanics of reading. This skill has to be developed in stages.5″ width. they often can’t answer the questions because they can’t remember the meaning of what they read. Then three. supports memory formation in very powerful ways. the reader needs to recognize whole words as complete units and then expand that capability to clusters of several words. because their focus on the words themselves kept them from associating what their eyes saw with their own pre-existing knowledge and thus facilitating remembering. It is crucial to think about the meaning of text. but few schools use them. 5) Think in Pictures .several words per fixation. Even with straightforward simple memorization questions. Poor readers who stumble along from word to word actually tend to have lower comprehension because their mind is preoccupied with recognizing the letters and their arrangement in each word. But phonics is just the first step in good reading practice. If you can’t do it on your own. vertical snap if whole line in a column can be seen with one fixation). At some point. First. the reader should stop and self-quiz to make sure the important material is being memorized. depending on the information density. and I still can’t answer your questions. Learning how to do this takes practice. learn how do read at five or six fixations per line. which in my view is vital for the initial learning of how to read. and checking it against the content just read. I list the following: o Make eye contact with all the text not being deliberately skimmed o See multiple words in each eye fixation o Strive to expand the width of each eye fixation (on an 8.That is a main reason they can’t remember what they read. In short. consider formal training from a reading center. to remember what you read. why it needs to be remembered. The act of creating such an outline from working memory. “I read that chapter three times. Every few paragraphs or pages.” When I ask thought-provoking questions about the material. Countless times I have heard college students say. A better approach is to highlight just a few key words on a page. sticky tabs on pages with highlights can greatly speed a study process for whole books. strive for three fixations or eventually two per line). Almost all students use highlighter pens to identify key parts of a text. If many pages don’t require highlights. There are reading-improvement machines that train the eyes to fixate properly. Making outline notes of such material after it is first read can be an important rehearsal aid for forming immediate memory and for later study. they often can’t remember. Highlighted text needs to be rehearsed in the context of how it fits with the purpose.
Then surprise yourself at how much they help you remember about the associated section of this article. except that actors are associating words with real meaning and context as opposed to contrived visual image meaning and context. Think about the content in each segment in terms of how it satisfies the purpose for reading. see how many of the mental pictures you can reconstruct. but you get the opportunity to gain creative insights about the subject. appear to be looking at the same text from the inside. Pictures also become easier to remember when they are clustered into similar groups or when they are chained together to tell a story. Rehearse the mental pictures every day or so for the first few days after reading. “How does this information fit what I already know and don’t know? Why did the author say that? Do I understand what this means? What is the evidence? Do I agree with ideas or conclusions? Why or why not? What is the practical application?” How much of this do I need to memorize?” Apply the ideas to other situations and contexts. pictures are much easier to memorize than words. Those memory wizards who put on stage shows owe their success (as do card counters in casinos) to use of gimmicks based on mental pictures. but it can certainly capture the essence of dozens of words. To rehearse what you are memorizing. all the while thinking about and paraphrasing the meaning of what is written. To do that you also have to keep in working memory what was said. 7) Operate Within Your Attention Span Paying attention is central to memorization. on the other hand. This not only helps memory. Trying to read when you can’t concentrate is wasting time. Actors. if used as a starting point for mental pictures. Moreover. Use headings and highlighted words if needed to help you reinforce the mental pictures. 6) Rehearse As You Go Along Read in short segments (a few paragraphs to a few pages. as something to be experienced. it appears that the text is being looked at from the outside. or TV show. It also helps to focus on what is not said. and that is what helps you to remember what is read. then become very useful for memorization. I understand that actors use another approach for memorizing their lines for a play. thinking not only promotes memory formation but also understanding. Sometimes it helps to make mental images of headings and sub-heads. For example. As a test to prove my point. Both approaches require engagement. movie. as something to be memorized. after you have go back and look at the seven pieces of clip art in this article. One only has to spot the key words and think of the associated mental images. they seem to explore why their character would use a given set of wordsto express a particular thought. The actors probe the deep meaning of the text. which inevitably involves attending to the exact words. Notice how quickly you can memorize the clips. The reader has to think hard about what is being read. which seems to produce memory automatically for them. Generate ideas about the content. The highlighted key words in text. Ordinary readers can use to good effect the practice of making mental images of the meaning of text. Since most people have short attention spans. Ask yourself questions about the content. In short.A picture may not be worth a thousand words. they should not try to read dense . Mental pictures are not the only way to facilitate memory for what you read. Actors “get into the part” and study the meaning of the script in depth. for example. depending on content density). When the same script is memorized with mental images. This is still a process of association.
“How will I be able to explain the main ideas of this book to others. He had to constantly think. He has a great summary of his method here. 7 Ways to Remember What You Read by Cameron Schaefer 1) Read With the Goal of Teaching Someone Else – My friend Glenn has one of the most brilliant minds I know. Skim first. but let it go when they toss their caps at graduation. Taking notes allows a reader to right down key points. In Summary 1. 3) Take Notes – Lots of people utilize this technique in school. they’re usually tired and hardly in the best state to process and retain information. 4) Read When You’re Awake – Most people read right before they go to bed. 8. “But it’ll ruin the ending!” At the end of most books is a summary chapter that gives the main ideas and how they all tie together. once when read and once when written. with a full understanding of where everything is going. He can read a book and process the information. My friend Beau uses a pencil to mark and highlight in the book as he reads and then transfers this information into Google Docs. After such a session. quickly adapting new ideas into his life and teaching others along the way. During dinner they would teach the other members of the family what they learned that day. 6. 2. The secret to Glenn’s ability started during his childhood. It also allows you to read like the author would read his own book. Ultimately. 7. 5.material for more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time. Avoid distractions and multi-tasking because they interfere with the consolidation processes that enable longer-term memory. Answer again the questions about content mentioned in the “Rehearse As You Go Along” section. they should take a break and quiz themselves on what they just read. Be judicious in highlighting and note taking. rehearse what you learnedâ€• right away. This ritual formed a wonderful habit in Glenn of reading comprehensively in order to teach someone else. Rehearse again soon. This gives the reader a much greater chance of remembering. Stay within your attention span and work to increase that span. Rehearse again at last once for the next 2-3 days. 3. Rehearse as you go along. By reading this first you are then able to catch these ideas and themes more easily as you go through the book. 2) Read the Last Chapter First – This one is more geared towards non-fiction as I can already hear people screaming. Think about and rehearse what you read at least twice later that day. Every weekend his family would go to the local library to read.” In doing so he delved deep into the book and the information stuck with him. In doing so the information is then processed twice. Rehearse Soon After Reading Is Finished At the reading session end. themes and memorable quotes. readers should discipline their attention so they can concentrate for longer periods. Read with a purpose. Think in pictures. By reading at . After a long day. 4. Get the reading mechanics right.
symbolism and author background. themes. Join a book club. but finding a good reading environment goes a long way. 5) Discuss What You’re Reading – Some of the books we remember most vividly are those that we read in our high school English class. or if you have a good group of friends. I had never thought much about where I read until reading a great post Ben Casnocha wrote on optimizing activity for location a couple months ago. Try to schedule your reading during these times and you will give yourself a much better chance of remembering what you read. In discussing the book we were able to process the information as a group. Another benefit of reading summaries is the mental debate you will have each time you reach a controversial section as you ask yourself whether you agree with the conventional interpretations. He explained. 7) Find Your Reading Environment – Sometimes more important than how you are reading is where you are reading. so it’s not cheating.other times throughout the day chances are their minds would work much better. Discuss the book online in book forums or in a social networking group like Facebook. “…when thinking about what you’re going to do. Is the television on? Are the kids crawling all over you? Do you do your best reading on the airplane? Some things can’t be helped. bouncing ideas off each other and hearing different perspectives. Most of us are no longer in high school.” Find your reading environment and enjoy remembering what you read. Why? It is the practice of nearly every teacher to have lively class discussions and debates over each section of a book. think about where you’re going to be. reading the cliff notes before starting the book can provide all kids of insight into characters. start one. . and how that place will affect your productivity at completing the activity. If you are a night person maybe it is the best time for you to read. By reading these things beforehand you are helping ensure that you won’t miss them as you read the book. The important thing is to talk about what you’re reading. Especially for some of the classics. 6) Read the Cliff Notes First – We’re not in high school anymore. but the options are endless. The important thing is to know your body and know what times of day are best for thinking and concentrating. All of these made us use the information in various ways cementing it in our minds and helping us remember.
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