5 Active Reading Strategies for Textbook Assignments – College Info Geek


Hey, what’s up? It’s Thomas Frank, and in
this video we’re talking about active reading. Active reading is a method of reading a book
with the intent of pulling something useful out of it. It’s different from passively going
over the text once to experience it. Right off the bat I’m going to say there were a
lot of systems that have been put forward like SQ3R, SQ4R, and lots of other acronym
driven systems for active reading, and I think that these systems are too cumbersome, they
take too long, and I’m not going to be going over them in this video. I’m not the only
one who think this. Instead what I’m going to do is show you how I’m applying active
reading to 3 specific books that I’ve been reading recently, and how I’m able to recall
the information better by doing that. First I’m going to give you 5 general active reading
tips that you can apply to any reading that you have to do. The first tip is to use a
technique called pseudo-skimming. The longer the readings that you have to do
are, the more likely a lot of the paragraphs in those readings are going to be filler.
That could be background, that could be extra detail, it could be asides. Things like that.
Often you don’t really need to read these paragraphs all that in depth to get the information
you need for your classes. The pseudo-skimming technique is really a paragraph by paragraph
technique where you skim each paragraph very quickly, and then you get a feel for the reading
and figure out which paragraphs hold the most important information. The second tip is to
try to read backwards. A lot of textbooks are not all that exciting. They don’t really
have a narrative, and you’re not going to spoil yourself if you read it backwards, or
go to the end. If you want to figure out what a certain chapter
is all about, you can first go to the back, look at summary, look at the vocab lists that
are put back there, some of the questions, the review items, and get a feel for what
the actual chapter wants you to learn in a big sense, like a sky high sense. Once you
get that you can start going backwards and seeing, okay, yes. This vocab word was mentioned
here. This graphic mentions a topic that was in a review question, etc. Tip number 3 is
to come up with questions while you read. When you are going through the chapter, if
you are doing pseudo-skimming, or anything else, when something comes up that you don’t
really know about, then note that down as a question. You can also use the headings,
the sub-headings in the chapter as questions. If there’s a sub-heading that talks about
a specific concept, you can re-word that as a question, maybe even right it down in your
notes, and then as you go through the actual content of that section answer the question
for yourself. You can do this in review as well. Tip number
4 is to pay attention to the formatting of a text. When I was in college I would do this
with almost all of my readings. I would open up the book, I would look at almost every
single bolded item, or list of things, and I would pay special attention to those items
in the text because they probably were to go over processes that are important to the
chapter, or go over vocab terms that are almost certainly going to appear on tests. Pay attention
to things that stand out, and their formatting, and not those down. My last tip before I get
into some of the books I’m reading is to either mark up the book while you’re reading. If
you own the book, you can write in it with a pencil, and make notes in the margins, which
is really helpful. If you don’t, you can use flags, or possibly highlight depending on
your schools policies, and I’ll show you that in a bit. If you really don’t want to mark
up your book, then you can take really short bulleted notes on a piece of paper.
You can also put questions in there, or you can take flow style notes. I’ll throw some
of my recent notes up on screen here. These are notes I took in researching textbook reading
strategies for these videos in this one, and the last one. As you can see, I took notes
on the things I was reading, actually for multiple books, but it ended creating a better
picture that I could come back to. It’s in my own words, it’s in my own terms, so it
makes for better recall. Those are my 5 tips, and to round this video out, I’m going to
show you a few of the books that I’ve been reading, and 3 different active reading strategies
that I adopted for each book. The first book is, “Thinking Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman.
This book is about cognitive biases, it’s about bugs in human reasoning, and rationality,
and decision making. It’s a super dense book. I’ve only gotten to page 145 as my little
Ninetails will tell you. If you look at the side of it, I’ve used flags to markup almost
every page that I have read. This is one of those books that’s packed with
information on almost every single page. Every single chapter mention multiple studies with
lots of results, defines different terms, and I was interested in almost everything
I was reading here, so as I went through I used flags to markup the book in a non-damaging
way. I was reading this book about a year ago. I’ve become a little bit more okay with
marking up my books permanently since then, but the flag method does work, especially
if you’re renting textbooks, or you plan on selling it later. You can pull them out when
you need to when you have good notes for them, and you finished reviewing. It’s a pretty
good method. The second book here is “Confessions of a Scholarship Winner” by Kristina Ellis,
and I’m going through this book because it’s a fantastic overview of how to win scholarships.
Probably going to put it on my essential books list and create a lot of blog posts, and things
on it. This book I went through with a pencil and
I would bracket paragraphs that held specific ideas I wanted to review later. I would write
notes in the margin underlining specific terms that are really important. As I’m looking
back through the book I can see all the spots that I wanted to note for later. I’m going
to go through the book a second time once I finish reading it, and take good notes on
it. Speaking of notes, the book I’ve been reading most recently is “The Power of Habit”
by Charles Duhigg. If you were to be able to look through this book, you’ll see no markings
whatsoever. I actually have a third active reading system which is working really, really
well for me at this point, and it’s just to take notes on the chapter after I’ve read
it. I’ve created a habit of reading this “Power of Habit” … I’ve created a habit of reading
this book every single day for at least 15 minutes.
I check it off in HabitRPG, and it’s something that’s becoming a very strong habit for me,
so I definitely do it every day. About once every 2 days I finish a chapter. Immediately
when I finish reading a chapter, I’ll go over to Evernote on my desktop computer, go back
through the chapter and write notes in Evernote, which you can see right now on the chapter.
I’ve got a good bulleted summary of almost the entire book right now. Everything that
I thought was important in the book is in that summary, and it’s going to be about 3,000
words once I finish it, I’m estimating. That’s a lot less than what’s in the book, and if
I want to go back and review what I learned it’s going to be much easier, and it’s in
my own words as well. Those are some of the strategies you can use for active reading.
Hopefully you can implement some of these into your studies in order to cut down on
that study time, and increase your recall and your ability to do better on tests, and
essays, and whatever it is you need to apply your readings to.
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