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Active Reading September 7, 2005 Self-Evaluation Does your mind go blank when you take a test? Have you ever done poorly on a test even though you read the chapter two or three times? When reading is it hard to remember what you read a few pages ago?

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Active Reading

September 7, 2005

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  • Does your mind go blank when you take a test?

  • Have you ever done poorly on a test even though you read the chapter two or three times?

  • When reading is it hard to remember what you read a few pages ago?

  • Feel like you know what you read but you can’t explain it?

  • Do you feel like you should be getting more from your textbooks?

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Active Reading

  • Reading textbooks is not like reading novels.

  • Efficient and effective reading allows you to read many more pages of text in less time.

  • Active reading improves your recall and understanding.

  • Active reading allows you to better grasp complicated reading material.

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Get Acquainted

  • Buy your textbooks as early as you can.

    • If you’re certain of the books you need, buy them before classes start.

  • Get familiar with each book

    • Read the introduction

    • Look at the table of contents

    • Does it have a glossary?

    • What’s the vocabulary like?

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Take your time

  • When beginning a reading assignment, make sure you have an idea of how long it will take

    • Break the reading into manageable chunks

    • Find the right speed for you

      • Too fast, and you miss important information

      • Too slow, you’re probably paying too much attention to unimportant detail

    • Don’t fall behind!

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Do’s of Active Reading

  • Read in an environment that works for you

    • Well-lit, free of distractions

      • You may need to move around

      • If you fall asleep while reading, sit up – don’t lie down

  • Take breaks

    • What’s your concentration limit?

  • Read every day (even weekends)

  • Be creative and thoughtful

    • Mark your books (but don’t mark every word)

  • Read while you’re alert

  • Read out loud if the material is complicated

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Don’ts of Active Reading

  • Don’t study in bed.

  • Don’t have the TV on while you study

  • Don’t play music while you read

    • Some people need background noise, though

  • Don’t plan to read for hours at a time

  • Don’t read when you’re sleepy

  • Don’t fall behind

  • Don’t wait till the last minute

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Mark your book!

  • Forget selling your books back to the bookstore.

  • Make notes in the margin

    • Don’t highlight while reading

  • If you don’t understand something, put a question mark by it.

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Is there a Secret?

  • Preview

  • Question

  • Read

  • Reflect

  • Recite

  • Review


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  • What is the reading about?

  • How complicated is it?

  • How long is it? Do I need to break it into chunks?

  • Is it related to lecture topics?

  • Do I need a dictionary?

    Do all this before you start reading

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  • What questions will this reading answer?

  • Use headings in the readings

  • Use lecture notes to guide questions

  • Suggestion: make index cards with the major points, headings, or questions.

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  • Break the assignment into chunks and read it.

  • Possible strategies:

    • Keep a pen in your hand (not a highlighter). Use it.

    • Use a tape recorder to record interesting, important, or useful phrases.

    • Make sketches as you read.

    • Engage the author in a conversation – ask questions and let the author answer them

    • Don’t memorize yet. Try to hear the author’s message

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  • Just what it sounds like – think about the reading.

    • How does the reading relate to lecture topics?

    • How does it fit with or challenge what you already know?

    • What are the answers to the questions that you asked

  • After you reflect, go back and highlight important points.

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  • Explain what you read

  • Strategies –

    • Write a one-sentence summary of each main segment.

    • Explain the reading out loud to yourself or someone else.

    • Draw a flowchart that shows connections between ideas in the reading.

  • This is where you learn what you understand and what you don’t understand.

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  • Go back over the reading

    • Wait a day or two.

  • See whether you remember the main concepts, even without looking at the book.

  • Ask a question in class or office hours about something you didn’t quite get.

  • Focus on the hardest material

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Did you know?

  • When most professors read books, they use this strategy. We almost never read something just once from start to finish.