Often my speed reading students ask me for my most-prized reading
tips. I expect that in my ten-lesson course, students will forget many
of the concepts presented, once they have been out of the course for
a few months. However, there are three strategies that I urge my students
to always remember and use, no matter what, in order to increase their
textbook reading efficiency.
- Set your purpose for reading. Identify your learning objectives,
or your reading "targets," first. Think about it-how would
you achieve a "bull's-eye" if you fire your weapon before
you have identified your target? Chances are, you would miss the target
altogether! It's the same way with reading assignments-if you do not
clearly identify your purpose for reading, you will not know what
concepts you are supposed to be looking for. "Purpose" is
not the fact that the professor has assigned pages 25-42 in the text,
due Tuesday. "Purpose" is defined by the answer to the following
question: "What are the questions you need to answer, and where
are the answers located in this text?"
Our students are given a set of learning objectives for each lesson
in each of their courses. However, lacking clearly defined learning
objectives, a student might also look at the questions at the end
of the chapter, to identify important concepts to look for while reading,
before doing anything else. Students might also devise their own questions
to be answered by the reading.
- Preview the reading before actually reading. This accomplishes
several purposes. First of all, it enables the reader to ask him/herself,
"What do I already know about this topic?" and literally
"wakes up" the student's schema, or background knowledge,
on the topic, making the actual reading a little bit easier, and enabling
better comprehension. It's a lot easier to read a chapter about something
that you have already been thinking about, isn't it? Second of all,
it helps the student to identify main points of the reading assignment,
and helps to give the student a "mental roadmap" of what
the author is discussing. Third, it gives the student an opportunity
to find the location of answers to his objectives or questions.
Previewing is basically looking over anything that "sticks out"
on the page: boldface print, italics, headings, information
set apart by white space on the page, first and last paragraphs, first
and last sentences within paragraphs, graphics and captions, charts,
and the like. Taking time to preview saves much time in the actual
- Pace through the actual reading of the text by using the
index finger, running the finger left to right under each line of
type, and allowing your eyes to read while following the movement
of the finger. Think of the purpose of the pace car in an auto race;
the finger pacer operates on the same principle of setting the speed
for the activity, which in this case is reading speed.
Pacing sets a reading rhythm, encouraging more efficient eye movement,
and pushes the reader forward through the reading, eliminating regression.
Using a pacer can immediately increase reading speed by 100 words
Purpose, preview, and pace: three easy steps to
more efficient textbook reading!
Questions or comments? Contact the author at Mona.Pelkey@usma.edu.
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