Reading for College
How to Pre-read Textbooks
Welcome to our first workshop of the year, reading for college. You might wonder why this is important. Well, higher education will tax you and test you, and it will stretch you to the limits because it requires an excessive amount of reading, a great amount of reading. And sometimes it's kind of hard to comprehend sometimes. So we're probably gonna try to give you some aids today to help you begin to negotiate the massive amounts of reading that you're gonna have to do and to better handle your understanding that information as you read. In this process that I'm gonna give you that will help you to do that, we're gonna talk about that and then we're gonna talk about some other things. The process includes, before you read, while you read, after you read, then we're gonna talk a little bit about what to do when the reading is tough, how to strengthen your vocabulary, how to increase your speed in reading. If you're like me, I'm a very slow reader. And then reading with children underfoot. Now first off we're gonna talk about what to do before you read, preread. That too we're gonna break down in three parts. But first is probably one of most important things that you can do as a college student is to preread or preview. As you approach your material, you want to open your book and begin to just thumb through it. You want to look at the title of the information that you're about to look at. If you want to look at the whole chapter, look at the title of the chapter. Begin to look at the graphs, the pictures that are in the chapter. Read the notes under the pictures. Read the headings under the chapter. If they give you an outline, read that. If there's a summary included, read the summary. Just get an idea of what information is contained in that information that reading assignment. Just get a feel for it. And then you want to begin to take that next step, which is outline. I like the outline phase because I also use it in my note taking, and this is a great framework for note taking. So in your outline, you might want to use a formal outline in using the Roman numerals and everything because you can then just take and make your title of your outline, the title of the chapter. And then each -- your first Roman numeral number one would be that first bold-printed topic. And then you're A, B and C would be the supporting paragraphs under that. And then you're next Roman numeral number two would be that next set of information. And it works really well. So as you then -- and you haven't begun to read yet. You're still looking at the textbook and the assignment. And you just write that down, leaving space in between your category so that you can make additional notes as you go through the text or as you listen to the instructor in the classroom. One of the other things you want to do before you begin to read is as you look at these topic headings and some of the things that are there, you want to begin to ask questions of what you expect to learn from this material. What is it you think that the instructor wants you to pick up from this material? What they're gonna look for you to know about this material or what it is that the author of the textbook is trying to tell you. So you begin to maybe formulate some questions and to write those down on a separate sheet of paper so that you can come back to them an answer them later. The second phase is when you actually begin to read. Just as you are about to read, you are to think about all that you've just done and just get ready to get in the mind-set of being ready to read. One of the old textbooks called it "being there," so you want to be in the right mind-set to be ready to read, to receive the information that the author is about to give you from the textbook. So then you begin to read. One of the great -- I had a student come into my office the other day and I'm going over -- they were having difficulty in the class and they had their textbook. I asked them let me see it. And the thing I was looking for was to see how clean their textbook was. And it looked like it had just come out of the wrapper. We get to the point of being worried about selling our textbooks back so we don't want to mark them up, we want to keep them nice and clean. Well, we're not here for the purpose of learning how to sell textbooks back to the bookstore. We're here for an education so please mark your books up. Mark your books up. So when you read, you want to underline, you want to make notations in your textbook. But be careful about the underlining and highlighting. You can overdo it. So what you want to do is you want to read the material first. I usually read a paragraph at a time and then I'll go back and highlight the important things in that paragraph. You usually know the first one or two sentences are probably gonna tell you everything there is to know, don't you all tell anybody I told you this, everything you need to know about that paragraph. Sometimes it's in the third sentence. Occasionally, the author will trip you up and put it in the last sentence. It usually is in that first sentence. Everything you need to know is gonna be in that first sentence. If you get in trouble and you need to increase your reading speed, you can skim and then you just skim those first couple sentences sometimes and get your reading accomplished in a hurry and still get the information. But usually the most important stuff is gonna be in that first sentence or two. Sometimes that first sentence in the paragraph is introductory. That usually tells you what you want to know. So usually that's where you're gonna find the stuff that you want to underline. Also, the bold writing or italics will be things that you want to underline or highlight because usually there's a definition that is included with those things. That will be a hint to tell you what you want to underline or highlight. When it comes to writing notes in your textbook, as you come to a thing that you don't understand, you might want to write in the margin what it is you don't understand or something that gives you cause to question. You might want to write that question in the margin of your textbook so that when you come to it in the lecture; you can ask the instructor about it. You'll remember to ask the instructor about it. You might remember that before we talked about this on back in chapter whatever or page whatever. You might want to make that notation in the margin so that you'll be able to refer back to it as you do your reviews and studying for tests and what not. And then you also, as you go through your reading material, you also want to look for the answers to those questions that you formulate in your preview. You want to begin to answer those questions and know what the text is telling you and what the author is telling you and that you're garnering the information that your instructor wants you to get. You answer the questions that you wrote down. And then phase three is a phase that we tend to forget about. Once you've read the material, you want to kind of recite what you've read to yourself about it. To talk to yourself. You want to tell yourself what you read and what was important from the main points, the supporting points. If you do that, if you do, some of us might need to do that out loud. If we do that, that just reinforces our memory if you do that right after we've done the assignment. So that it's fresh in your mind and that that reinforces right away. If you don't want to talk to yourself or some people may even go to the point of talking to themselves while looking in the mirror. If you don't want to do that, find a friend or a family member to talk to. That also then gives them a stake in your education. And sometimes if you have supportive family members, they'll want you to talk to them about what you're studying. So feel free to do that. You're doing them a favor and they're helping you to learn the material. Within 24 hours of having done the assignment, you want to do a brief review. Go through your notes. Go through that outline. Look at those highlighted areas that you marked up in your book. Look at the question or the notations that you made in the margins. And just keep it fresh in your mind. That makes it more ingrained in your memory. And then about once a week, you want to do a general review of everything and just go through all of your notes and refresh yourself again. Let's review things. And you want to do that as often as you can, and keep everything as fresh as you can. When you're reading gets tough, and some reading, of course, is more difficult than other reading. If you're in a reading class and you're reading a fiction book, then it may not be too tough. But if you're reading chemistry, it may be a difficult stretch of material A & P material might be more difficult for you to read and understand. Some of the technologies, the technical fields, and the material might be more difficult for you to understand. So first thing you might want to have to do is read it again, read it a second time. I don't know how often you've been reading through something and you read a sentence and you know that you didn't understand it and just stop and go back and read it again. That's all you need to do, just to read it. Again, slow down and read it again. Look for essential words, words that really carry the meaning of whatever the topic is. If there are words that are highlighted or words that are bolded or in italics, then, certainly, those are essential words and you want to pay more attention to them. Hold many reviews. Hold those reviews we were just talking about, more often and even in the middle of what you're reading. Stop and review what the person is trying to tell you or what concept they're trying to get across. Also many reviews, you might want to think in terms of study groups. Once the assignment is complete, you might want to get with people from the class, other people from the class, and go through it again and just talk about what they learned or what they had problems with and that helps a great deal, particularly in some of our sciences. Read it out loud. If you have trouble comprehending a certain assignment, read it out loud. Listen, then you're hearing yourself as you read it and that also reinforces the material. If you're really having a lot of difficulty in comprehending the class and the material, talk to the instructor. Sometimes we've had students who have instructors who will explain something, a concept or something and it will be crystal clear. And then they'll read the text and they'll be confused just like they never heard it before in their life. So talk to the instructor and they'll help you through those kind of issues. If you're reading at home or somewhere alone and you begin to, you know, get a little drowsy or doze off or you're not picking up on the information, stand up. Standing actually does make a difference. They even have some workstations now, in corporate world that are designed for the person to be standing because it helps them to think. Thinking on your feet is really a true saying. Skip around. I don't mean hop and skip and jump around the room. Though, that would help too. It just means skip around in the material. If you're having difficulty with this particular concept, the next topic doesn't build on it, then skip over it and read that and then that'll later help you come back and understand where you were having difficulty. Find a tutor. We have tutors on campus in the tutoring room, primarily in English and math. But they can help you in other areas as well. Sometimes just the information a tutor might have on how to study can help you bridge that gap that you're having at home. Sometimes you might want to use a second textbook, a different text than the one you're in. You might find that if you use it in conjunction with your text in the class, it helps you to understand the information, might explain it in a different way. Pretend you understand and then explain it to yourself. That goes back to the reciting we were talking about before. If you can teach it to yourself, if you can explain it to yourself, then that means that you can explain it to someone else that can also understand. Ask the question, what's going on here? And then just delve into it and seek that answer that might help you to understand a little bit. And if you're really having the struggle, then you may want to stop reading and take that break. You know, we talked about we ought to take a 10-minute break out of every 60 minutes anyway when we're studying. And sometimes you get caught up in a reading assignment and you forget to do that, and you just need to remember, stop and take that break. Also, one thing that reading will help you do is strengthen your vocabulary. As you read, you want to have a dictionary available, whether it be online or on your shelf or on your desk to look up unfamiliar words. Sometimes you're able to figure out what those words mean as you, in context, as you read the assignment. Sometimes you're not. You're better off to look them up and figure out what they are and figure out what they are and get that actual definition than you are to just blow it off and not understand the assignment. If you're reading an assignment and you don't want to stop right there and look up the words, create what they call a word stack. Use the index cards, the 3 by 5 index cards. Write the word down and then when you're finished with the assignment, look up those words and write the definition on your 3 by 5 card. That also helps you to remember them and that increases your vocabulary. As you read, sometimes you divide words into parts and figure out what they mean. And then, also as I said before, you might be able to confer or figure out what the word means from the context in which it's being used in a sentence or in a paragraph. But you want to strengthen your vocabulary. The more words you have, the better understanding you have of material. And some of our areas of study will use words that are different words. So the better you understand them, the easier it works. Reading fast has always a better challenge for me. I don't like to read. I do not read for recreation. I read because I have to get the information. I have tried all the gimmicks and taken several the classes and nothing works for me 'cause I don't want to read. But they're out there. If it works for you, it's a blessing because you do have a lot of material to read. So the first thing you want to do, if you want to read faster, is just do it. Start to read faster. Move your eyes quicker across that page. Figure out what it is you're doing and increase your speed. Get your body ready. Get in a right environment. You can sit in a chair in such a way that you are too relaxed and you won't be thinking of the material that you're reading. Set a timer, again, you want to take at least a 10-minute break every 60 minutes. You read 50 minutes, you break for 10. You may find that you'll do better if you read for 30 minutes and break for 5. But whatever your timing is, find it and work within it so that you can stay alert as you read. You want to be able to move your eyes across the page quicker, and then there are techniques of reading where you review some words. We don't read every word. That's how we know the words and mispronounce them sometimes 'cause we expect it to be something else when we see that first part of it. But just learn to relax and move your eyes faster. Notice the things that you are doing that slow you down and get rid of them. If you have bad habits, perhaps you're rereading without it being necessary or you're reading in jerk movements instead of smooth eye movement across the page. Identify those habits and eliminate them. You might be reading with the television on, you're watching your favorite TV show while you're trying to read. Turn off the TV. You may find that you're one of those people that need the background noise of some sort. Well, find something that's not distracting. But get rid of those bad habits. If you're pressed for time, skim. We talked about skimming a little bit ago. Skimming is not reading every word but identifying those important things and reading those. I gave you a couple hints already. Most information, the first two sentences in the paragraph is the most important. But you always want to read the material around those key words, those central words and definitions. Stay flexible. As you build your study time and your reading time, be aware that you will get interruptions and need to adjust them. And if you can do that, then you'll stay more relaxed and you won't be as stressed out and you're reading will go much more smoothly. Then you can also explore other resources, other ways to increase your reading speed. There are courses out there and different techniques. Many of you have children underfoot and family responsibilities that might interfere with your reading time. So one of the things that we recommend, when you have children involved in the family, tend to them first. Take care of their needs. Give them things to do. Occupy their time. Use part of the time to accomplish what you need to accomplish. You may need 2 hours of reading time, but you may not be able to get 2 hours of time free all in 1 block. That's okay, 30 minutes here, 30 minutes there, 30 minutes later and 30 minutes before you go to bed or when you first get up. You can spread it out and still get the effective amount of time that you need to accomplish the reading assignment. Plan special activities for your children. When you have study time, give them study time. If they're not in school, if they're preschoolers, give them drawing time or coloring time, and they're drawing or coloring while you're reading. Read to the child as you are doing your A & P reading or your chemistry reading. They won't understand it, but they'll be happy just to hear your voice and to be a part of your study time. Use the television responsibly. The television is not your primary babysitter. That's all I'm trying to remind you of. There are some good things and there are some bad things, but television shouldn't be used to replace your time with the child. Allow for interruptions. You should know that if you're a parent that you're not gonna get 60 minutes of uninterrupted time away from your child without them interrupting you. Even if you've given them planned activities to keep them occupied, even if their study time is your study time, they're still gonna break in on your time. So expect it, accept it and move on. Don't let it [inaudible]. Plan study breaks with your children. When you're finished, when you come to a time when you need to relax in that 10 minutes, plan to spend time with your child. It's all routine, children love routine. They don't like change. So if you study every night at 6:00 and dinner is every night at seven 7:00 or 6:30, that's great. Then go back to studying every night at 8:00 or whatever. If it's regular and it's expected and anticipated, they can deal with that. Ask for help from other adults. If there are other adults in the household, remind them that your education is not only important to you, it should be important to them. It's a joint effort and ask them to entertain your children for a while. And then as I said before, read to your children and that also helps a bunch. So there the information is. Now how can you use it? How can it be helpful to you? Well, you want to analyze what effective readers do and then you want to experiment with those things and pick out the things that will help you to become a more effective reader. You need some ideas, incorporate those things that work for you, the things that do not, forget about them. Increase your vocabulary and adjust your reading speed. If you increase your vocabulary, you won't spend as much time trying to figure out what words mean. You'll have a better comprehension of the information that's being given to you and you'll actually wind up reading faster automatically. If you also practice trying to increase your reading speed, that will be of great help. Don't be like me. And remember that you'll read at different speeds for different types of material. So adjust your speed, your reading speed according to the difficulty of the material. Your comprehension of difficult tasks will be increased as you begin to incorporate these things. Any questions? That then was a whirlwind trip through reading for college. Thank you for your attention.