When a text has you stumped, what do you do? Read the text over again, looking for:
• Images that are clear to you
• An order of events that is clear to you
Once you know which parts you understand, you have a key to help you with the parts you don't understand. Ask yourself, "What do I need to know to make the pictures and order clear?" Perhaps some answers will be found in a passage that comes before the section you're reading. Start with the part you do understand, and use information from the difficult section to add to your picture or order.
If more questions come to mind, read the text over again until you've discovered your answers. You're putting new material into the file cabinet in your head. Don't rush; it takes time. (You may wish to review Chapter 4, "Making Images, Making Order, Making Sense.")
Use Your Learning Style
Use your learning style or styles as you stop and become comfortable with the new material, thinking about what you just read or listened to. Your brain needs time to file what you're learning so you can pull out the file later when you need it for a test. Read aloud, draw pictures or cartoons, make a timeline—whatever works for you. (You might also want to review Chapters 2 through 5 about the different learning styles.)
Go to a chapter you haven't seen yet in this book. Choose a paragraph toward the end of the chapter. Make sure you don't read what comes before the paragraph! Follow the suggestions above for pre-reading and beginning to read. Then read the paragraph, and write your observations and questions in your notebook.
after you've read
Most everyone can remember what came first and what came last better than they remember what was in the middle—be it a shopping list or scenes in a play. That's why writers and teachers generally put the nitty-gritty, the main idea, of what you're reading in the beginning, and repeat it at the end.
Every time you complete an assignment, think about what you got out of it. In your reading log, answer these questions:
• What was most useful or interesting about what you read?
• How did the beginning compare with the end?
• What did you disagree with or find confusing?
• What ways of reading worked best for you (reading aloud, drawing pictures, etc.)?
To make sure you have understood what you've read, follow the steps listed in Chapters 7 and 8 on knowing what you know and don't know. Make a picture, make order—and then record any questions you still have left so you can tackle them in your next study session.
Now You See It, Now You Don't
Here's a secret to reading: Some words have two different kinds ofmean-ings, literal and figurative. One meaning you can feel, see, hear, smell, or taste. It's really there. A second meaning you have to figure out, based on the first meaning.
For instance, think about the word road. Imagine the road near you. You can see it; when someone walks or drives on it, you can hear traffic on it; if it's a tar road and a warm day, you can even smell it. A word meaning something that's really there is called literal. (You may want to review abstract and literal thinking in Chapter 2, Discovering How You Learn.) If you're a literal (right-brain) learner, literal understanding generally comes readily to you.
Some words also have a symbolic or abstract meaning. With the example of road, what does a road do? It takes you somewhere, right? Now you see that you can use road in a different way, an abstract way, a way that does not have a picture—a way that is not literal. Because you have to figure out this kind of meaning, it is called figurative. Reading this book might be part of your "road to success." You're getting somewhere—you just can't literally see it. If you're an abstract (left-brain) thinker, this kind of thinking generally comes readily to you.
To get from a literal understanding of a word to its figurative meaning, try this:
• First, picture the literal meaning in your head.
• Next, write (or tape-record) a description of what the word does.
• Then, hold on to the idea of what the word does, and consider its figurative meanings.
Try this approach in going from a literal to figurative understanding with other words. Think about the word chair. What does a chair do? It supports you. Were you ever chair of a committee? Get the idea?
Try this with titles, too. What is the literal meaning of a title? What could a figurative meaning be? Notice the title of a film, short story, poem, or play. Often there are two meanings to fiction, one literal—one you can easily picture—and another figurative—one you need to figure out. For example, the film "The Freshman" is about a young man who is in his first year of college (literal) and who is also naive, inexperienced, and "fresh" to the ways of the world (figurative).
If English isn't your first language, be on the look-out for many words and phrases with figurative meanings. To say, "A bell went off in her head," doesn't mean she had an operation, a bell was placed inside her head, and it rang! Instead, ask yourself, What picture comes to mind? A bell ringing. What does a ringing bell signify? It might announce something or call attention to something, right? It brings something to mind that wasn't thought of before. "A bell went off inside her head" figuratively means "She realized something." You'll find that the more practice you have, the easier it will be to go from literal to figurative understanding—from "seeing" something to realizing its figurative, richer meaning!
To make sense of what you read, first study the title and any illustrations to come up with the main idea of the reading. Come up with questions that the text should answer. You want to have clear images in your head, and a clear sense of the order of events of what you're reading or listening to. Stop when you come to something new or confusing. Connect it with what you already know, to help your brain file it as something learned. After you read, you think back on what you read, and how you read it.
Practice pre-reading the next time you're reading a newspaper or magazine article, or even watching a film. Pre-read the title of the film or reading matter, and then pay very close attention to what's happening in the beginning. Try to predict the ending, based on what's happening or being discussed at the start. Have fun!
You're studying a lecture you listened to, or
something you've read. You understand it—and
stick! How do you make
tomorrow? The trick is to
important to you and relate it to something you know. Then use it in your conversations, write it down, or draw or record it. You get actively involved with the new material, using your learning style.
■something and remembering it. Straight memorization doesn't usually stay with you very long. Real learning, on the other hand, lets you apply what you learned. Because you use it, it has meaning for you. Because it has meaning for you, you're apt to remember it!
what's important to you?
You have your lecture tape and/or notes, you have your reading log and/or tape—you understand what you've read, the lecture made sense to you. You know it now and you want to know it tomorrow and the next day and ... Ask yourself, and answer in your notebook:
• What do I want to remember?
• Why is this important to me?
Memorizing vs. Remembering
In his Spanish class, Jeff was given a list of vocabulary words to learn. There were Spanish words in one column and their corresponding English words in the other. Jeff took the list and memorized all the Spanish words. He read them out loud. He put the list on his bedroom mirror, on his refrigerator, in his notebook, and on his TV set. Jeff felt he knew those words. Then came the test. He took one look at it and froze. His Spanish teacher had changed the order of the words, and Jeff had memorized the list in a certain order. He could repeat the exact list, but he couldn't translate them at random. He hadn't learned the words.
Jeff (see box) can try out the new words he's learning, not by memorizing, but by using them in conversation—even with friends or family who don't know Spanish! He can speak or write in English and substitute one of his new Spanish words when appropriate. When he knows more Spanish, he can include a sentence in Spanish while he's speaking or writing in English. He can also try to become more involved with Spanish by watching a Spanish TV show, listening to a Spanish radio program, or looking at a Spanish newspaper.
long and short memory
There are basically two different kinds of remembering: long-term and short-term. To better understand the difference, think of your brain as a parking facility. One part of it specializes in "parking" new information for only a few days. If the new information is reinforced, it gets shifted to longterm parking. Think of the long-term parking lot as your "grandmother" memory, because that's where emotional memories are stored, perhaps like the one you have of yourself as a child with your grandmother.
The only memory that really sticks with you is long-term memory. If you want to learn something at the beginning of the semester and still be able to remember that information for the final exam, you will have to move it from short-term memory to long-term memory. On the other hand, some things belong in short-term memory; they would just clutter up the long-term side. You may memorize a friend's phone number, for instance, just long enough to get to someplace where you can write it down.
Some people are very good at remembering things they learn right away. Others are better at remembering things they learned a long time ago. Which are you? Whichever you are, you may want to use your learning style to practice on the other. Below are some suggestions; you'll probably come up with more on your own or find that a combination of a few works best for you.
Remembering Things You Just Learned
Be prepared! Whatever you use to write your notes in, carry it with you! Notebooks
Carry a small notebook with you and write down what you just learned. Your reading log will work for this purpose. You might want to create one section for pre-reading and questions and another for things you want to learn.
Use an address book to create your own categories in alphabetical order. Get yourself an inexpensive address book and use it as a do-it-yourself dictionary. Write in unfamiliar words as you come across them, along with your own meaning and, perhaps, a definition you looked up in a dictionary. You could also use an address book to keep track of A-Z ideas as you prepare for an examination or paper.
Jot down anything you want to remember—French vocabulary, chemistry terms, mathematical equations, whatever—each on its own card.
Make sure you add your own explanation—if it's a vocabulary word, also write a sentence using the word. You can use different colored cards to designate different categories. For example, French vocabulary cards could have verbs in green and nouns in purple. Or, if you're focusing on spelling, different colored inks on the same card could designate different sounds within a word. Colors can be used to create order and help you remember new material.
Repeat what you just learned over and over in your head. Put it on tape and listen to it often.
Imagine a silly picture using what you just learned. Draw the picture in a small notebook or on an index card.
Imagine what came before and what might come after what you just learned. Write, draw, or list what you imagined in a small notebook or on an index card.
REMEMBERING THINGS YOU LEARNED BEFORE
You might find that when you see or hear something similar to what you think you've forgotten, it comes back to you. Your memory was triggered by something.
The only way you'll find out what triggers your memory is to try different strategies for remembering. You can begin by continuing to do any (or any combination) of the things in the list above that work for you. You can also:
Draw charts. Make each one a category of your design. As you learn something new in each category—or remember something from the past—add it to the chart. Look at it frequently. Make audiotapes. As you learn something new—or remember-something from the past—talk about it into an audiotape. Use different tapes for different subjects. Color-code tape labels to keep the categories separate. Play back the tapes frequently.
• Prepare index cards. Keep your notes on 3x5 cards. Experiment with different labels and ink colors to organize by subject. Store cards by categories and review them frequently. If you've also recorded audiotapes for the material, store the cards with the tapes in shoeboxes with color-coded labels.
• Create timelines. In a world history class, for example, you could put large sheets of paper on your bedroom wall to begin timelines. Since you're studying different countries during similar time periods, you could write each country's timeline in a different color. Use the same colors to make notes of events and people in those countries. Or maybe you could designate a different color for each era; that way you could keep track of what was happening when. If you're using tapes, you can similarly categorize by having one tape for each country or one for each century.
Reinforcements Are Coming!
When you pack a heavy bag of groceries, you double up on bags to ensure that the contents stay inside. In the same way, your memory needs reinforcement to hold on to, or remember, a great deal of information. There are many ways you can make something you've learned hold in your memory.
Keep in mind your learning styles:
• Use it. If it's a new word or new idea, use it with friends and family. Keep using it!
• Think about it. Think about what the new material means to you, and to what you have learned in the past. How you think about it depends on what works best for you. This might mean making pictures in your head as you think about your instructor's words or putting the new material in a kind of order.
• See it. Write the word you want to remember and its definition in big letters on a sheet of paper. Make several copies. Put them where you're sure to notice them—on your bedroom and/or bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator, next to the telephone. Experiment with different colored markers and paper to see which works best for you.
• Hear it. Talk about the new material (even to yourself), read aloud, listen to tapes of a lecture or of yourself reading notes or a text.
The Pause That Refreshes
After you learn something new, you need "sink-in" time. Pause. Think about what you read, who you met, what you heard, what you saw.
Think of one thing you learned this week. It could be something you learned at work, at home, on your own, or with friends. Take a piece of paper, and write your answers to these questions:
• What was it I learned?
• How did I learn it?
• What did I get out of learning it? How will it be useful to me?
You just made the memory of what you learned much stronger. By thinking and writing about it, you're more likely to remember it.
Here's Looking at You! Using Reflection
When you stand in front of a mirror, there are two of you—the real you, and your mirror image. By reflecting the real you, the mirror lets you see yourself in a way that you wouldn't be able to see otherwise. You see all of yourself head on; you see yourself more clearly.
When you think back on something, you're reflecting. You're "seeing" it more clearly. When you asked yourself the questions above, as you were pausing to let what you learned sink in, you were reflecting. Every time you reflect on what you've learned, you reinforce that memory.
Old News Is Good News
Before you go on to something new, review what you know already. You'll be reinforcing what you've learned and making it easier to find connections with what you are about to learn.
Jeff, who we met at the beginning of this chapter, learned how to study more thoroughly. He found the more he used his Spanish—talking to the mirror, singing in the shower, listening to a Spanish-speaking radio station—the more the words sunk in. He found if he didn't use a word for a while, it was easy to forget it, no matter how strongly he felt he had learned it at the time.
Whatever your learning style, you're more likely to remember what you are learning if you write about it. (You may want to review Chapter 7, "Knowing What You Know.")
Rewrite Class Notes
This can make the notes easier to read—and easier for you to remember them. This also gives you a chance to reorganize the notes so what's important to you will stand out. You might want to use colored markers for certain sections.
Bea Copy Cat
If you are learning something complex from a pamphlet or book, choose a few paragraphs you feel are most important. Copy them exactly. Then read them out loud. Copy them a second time, and then read them aloud again. Copy a third time, read aloud a third time. If you are still feeling challenged by the material, continue copying and reading aloud. This really works!
Write as You Study
Each time you review your reading log, class notes, or a text, you probably see something a little differently than the time before. This is because you're getting more involved with what you're learning. Write down your more experienced viewpoints. Write how you feel about the material now, and see the progress you make with each study session.
Write after Studying
Without looking at your notes or text, write what you got out of studying this time. Also write how you studied, how you used your learning styles. You'll find the more aware you are of what you do, the more likely you'll be successful at getting material to stick in your memory.
USING YOUR LEARNING STYLES AS YOU STUDY If You Learn Best by Hearing
Read aloud (softly, if you're around others). Also, try using a tape recorder by recording your own notes from class and from your reading logs. Play the tape back whenever you can, when it won't disturb others. In a lecture class, many instructors will permit you to bring a recorder. If you learn best by hearing, you might find you get more out of not taking notes during a lecture, but by focusing instead on what you're hearing. Let your tape recorder record the lecture so you can review it , or parts of it, later.
If You Learn Best by Seeing
's*^ Write. Take notes in all classes, even when it's a class discussion. If something unusual happens—someone had a sneezing fit and the instructor had to stop talking—write that down, too. The unusual often helps trigger details later. If your company or school has a film library, you might want to see if what you've read about is available on film. For instance, films have been made about how to build things, conduct science experiments, and manage people. Many stories and novels have also been made into films.
If You Learn Best By Doing
Role play. Act out what you've learned. Nobody's watching—your character can even be a machine, if that's what you're learning about. You might also try reading and writing while walking. Some people who learn best by doing or moving find they think more clearly when they are moving. Try it!
If You Learn Best by Using Images
Pay attention to the "movie" in your head. Draw pictures that come to mind in the margins of your own texts, or in your notebook.
If You Learn Best by Using Order
Make a list or chart. This can be of words, phrases, or questions. Outlines probably come easily to you and help align your thinking as you review old material and add new information.
(You may also want to review Chapters 2 through 5 on learning styles. See, too, Chapters 12 through 14 on getting the most from the classroom.)
Getting new information to stay in your memory means finding something familiar, or unusual, in what you are learning and using your learning style to make connections. It's important to stop and reflect on what you learned, and to use it as often as you can.
Twenty minutes or so before you go to sleep tonight, read over (or listen to) something you want to remember. Tomorrow morning, read or listen to the same thing again.
You are "reading with your ears" when you listen to a lecture. To get the most out of the lecture, take time to think about what will be covered before the speaker begins. Take careful notes, jot down questions that come to you, and summarize the lecture in your own words afterwards.
Getting the Most from a Lecture
scarce. At that time, a lecture was usually an instructor reading from the only book available, which was usually handwritten, since the printing press had yet to be invented. Today, sometimes lectures are read from books or notes, but often the teacher simply speaks about a subject, perhaps referring to a book or notes occasionally. Some teachers combine lecture with discussion groups; some only lecture. Your job as a student in a lecture situation is to be an active listener. You want to become involved with what you're hearing.
BEFORE THE LECTURE
In any class, it's a good idea to get the phone numbers of at least two of your classmates. Then, if you should be ill, you'll have fellow students to call to find out what you missed. They might let you copy their notes or their audiotape of a lecture. If you want to study together—even if it's over the phone—or check information, you have potential study buddies. There's more to come on this in Chapter 16, "Working with a Study Buddy."
Preparing for the Lecture Class
Many schools and companies have lecture halls that can accommodate fifty or more students. Seats may or may not be assigned. Before you attend class, you can probably find out from the department or office sponsoring the class if you may choose your seat. If so, be early! Seats up front and along the aisles go quickly. Most lecturers permit tape recorders, but ask for permission first. Whether you learn best by hearing or seeing, it's a good idea to take advantage of a tape recorder. Especially in a large class with many distractions, it's easy to miss something that is said.
What's in a Title?
You'll probably be given the title of the lecture or the title of a reading that the lecture is based on. Get yourself tuned up for that lecture by playing a little guessing game beforehand:
• What do you think the lecture will be about?
• What do you know about the topic already—and what don't you?
• How will knowing more about the subject enhance your understanding of the class, or your knowledge in general?
Write in a notebook or record on tape whatever the title of the lecture brings to mind. Write what questions you expect the lecture to answer, based on what you think about the title. Now that you've guessed what the lecture is about—you're ready to listen!
Is There an Assignment? Do It!
If the lecture is based on an assignment, such as a reading, it's important to have this done—and understood—before the lecture, so you'll know what the lecturer is talking about. Write down any questions that come to mind while you do the assignment, ones that you hope the instructor will answer in the lecture.
making sense of the lecture
Some instructors permit students to raise their hands and ask questions during a lecture. Others want to wait until the end of the lecture for questions. Either way, write down your questions as they come to mind. Questions can evaporate unless they're on paper, even if you'll be asking them soon.
Coming up with questions also helps you understand the lecture. For instance, you might be thinking to yourself, "I'm not sure what he's talking about right now. I can't seem to connect it with what he said a moment ago." That's a legitimate question! So you can ask: "I'm having trouble connecting what you just said with what you were talking about before. Would you explain the connection for me?"
It's important to speak up! If you have a question, others are probably thinking the same thing. You feel more involved when you partici-pate—and you are getting more out of what you're learning. Even in lecture classes, instructors often notice—and appreciate—students willing to participate by asking questions. Sometimes the instructor is so familiar with the material that he or she forgets others need more explanation. In this sense, you're helping the teacher teach!
You'll get more out of note taking if you're guided by your learning style. (You may want to review Chapters 2 through 5 on learning styles.)
If You Learn Best by Hearing
Some people who learn best by hearing find that taking notes while they're listening distracts them from what they're hearing. To test this, try both versions of the practice tip at the end of this chapter. Listen to a talk show without taking notes, then, on another day, listen to a talk show with taking
notes. Decide which worked better for you. Either way, writing down questions that come to mind—or even key words that will remind you of the question—might be necessary to help you hold on to the question.
If You Learn Best by Seeing
You need to "see" while you listen. Write or draw pictures of what the lecturer is talking about. If the lecturer switches back and forth between topics, try using different colored markers to denote the different topics. If you don't have time to do this while the lecture is going on, you can do it when you go over your notes after class.
If You Learn Best by Using Images
You need to have pictures come to mind while you listen. Write or draw pictures of what the lecturer is saying. For your images to make sense, remember to think about the order of events, too! Numbering your pictures or using different colors to show you their order might help.
If You Learn Best by Using Order
You need to feel a clear order of events while you listen. Make a list or draw a timeline of what the lecturer is saying. Remember to keep track of images, too. Perhaps drawing images on your timeline would be useful.