ABC and 123: A Learning Collaborative: Guest Post: 30 Tiny Tips to Remember What You Read

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Guest Post: 30 Tiny Tips to Remember What You Read

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We were recently contacted by Emma from Accredited Colleges Online, and while most of our readers are primarily interested in preschool and elementary aged activities, we thought the tips they share in the following article are easily adaptable for all readers and ones we should all try to instill in our learners from the earliest ages on.

Whether you are studying for your college classes or you are just wanting to actually remember that awesome book you read last month, use these tiny tips to help you remember what you are reading. These suggestions cover everything from tips to use while you are reading to tips you can use before and after reading, as well as ensuring you have a reading environment conducive to successful reading and that you’re taking care of your body and brain. The following ideas are easy to implement and will have you recalling much more reading material than ever before.

Reading Tips

These tips are great to use while you are reading.

  1. Highlight. As you are reading, highlight the important points you want to remember or the words or ideas that you need to research to understand.
  2. But don’t over highlight. Marking everything with a highlighter defeats the purpose of making important text stand out. Make sure you only highlight the truly important parts.
  3. Take notes. Jot notes down in a notebook or on scratch paper while you are reading.
  4. Stay focused. If you feel your mind straying while you are reading, stop, regain your focus, and start again. Be sure to backtrack to the point at which your focus began to soften.
  5. Make notes in your book. Hold a pen or pencil while you read and write simple notes in the text as you are reading.
  6. Use sticky notes. Use sticky notes on the pages that hold important information or to indicate where you have taken notes in the text.
  7. Use note cards. Some people find it helpful to write their notes on note cards, then after reading, you can arrange the note cards in whatever grouping you may need when referencing the material you read.
  8. Read out loud. While some people do better reading quietly to themselves, others do better reading aloud. If you choose to do so, make sure you are not disturbing others nearby.
  9. Visualization. While you read, create visual pictures of the information you are processing. This visualization creates strong connections for recalling the material.
  10. Make a mind map. As you read, put important information into a mind map. This will not only create an organized way for you to refer back to what you read, but will help solidify the information in your head.

Before and After You Read

What you do before and after reading can affect how well you remember what you’ve read. Use these tips to ensure you are doing what you can before and afterward.

  1. Be alert for important information. If you know there are certain highlights or themes to look for while reading, staying alert for them in your reading will help you remember what you’ve read.
  2. Skim, then read. Before you start reading, skim everything you plan to read first. If there are photos, charts, or graphs, take a look at them. Read headers and any other information. After a quick skim, then start to read the material.
  3. Read the end first. You obviously probably wouldn’t want to do this if you are reading a mystery, but for most texts and non-fiction material, a summary of the text is usually available at the end. Read the closing comments, then go back to the beginning and start anew.
  4. Read as if you will be passing the information along. If you read the material as if you must tell someone else about it or teach the information to another person, then you will be much more attentive and retain the information better.
  5. Revisit your notes. No matter what type of notes you took while reading, make sure you revisit them after you have finished reading. This will reinforce what you read.
  6. Talk about it. Discussing what you read with others helps cement the information in your mind.

Reading Environment

Make sure your reading environment is conducive to reading so you can make the most of your reading experience.

  1. Turn off the TV. Even though you may feel like you can concentrate just fine with the TV or radio on, you will actually be better able to focus and retain what you are reading if you turn off the TV.
  2. Disconnect from communication devices. Make sure you aren’t distracted by email, text messages, the phone, or any other type of communication devices so you can give your reading your full attention.
  3. Read before bed. Studies show that material read before bed may be more easily retained. However, you should choose to read important material earlier in the evening before you feel yourself getting sleepy. Reading while you are dozing off will not help you retain anything.
  4. Classical music. Playing soft classical music in the background helps many readers relax and have better focus, thus helping to retain more of what they are reading.
  5. Take breaks. Especially if you have a ton of reading to do, it can be tempting to want to sit down for one long marathon reading session. If you build in breaks every half hour, you will remember what you are reading much more easily.
  6. Read in the same place each day. Make a comfortable reading spot in the same place each day. The routine and predictable ease of this spot will send signals to your body to relax and be open to your reading.

Take Care of Yourself

Remembering what you read is easier to do when your body and brain are in top shape.

  1. Meditate. Before you start reading, take a few minutes to sit quietly, clear your mind, and open yourself up to what you will be reading.
  2. Good posture. While reading, make sure you are using good posture to eliminate any fatigue or muscle ache that may distract you from what you are reading.
  3. Keep breathing. Make sure you are not holding your breath or taking shallow breaths while reading as this reduces the oxygen flow to your brain and increases anxiety. Take deep, slow breaths to relax.
  4. Be well-rested. Recent studies show a strong connection between sleep and memory. Having a good night’s sleep ensures you will be alert and awake enough to retain the information you are reading.
  5. Stand up or walk while reading. While this may not work for everyone, if you are the type that feels you always need to be in motion, standing up or walking while reading may actually help you focus better.
  6. Take fish oil. High quality fish oil has been shown to promote a healthy brain, which will, in turn, make sure you use your brain to the best of its ability.
  7. Play brain games. Keep your brain sharp by playing brain games, crossword puzzles, and other challenging tasks so that when it comes time to remember what you are reading, you can do so.
  8. Think positively. If you think positively about the success you will have remembering what you read rather than thinking about your weaknesses as a reader, you will be more likely to remember and do well.

{Thank you to Accredited Colleges Online for sharing these tips, reprinted with permission. Check out their blog for more tips.}


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