keeping up with your reading

Keeping Up With Your ReadingOn Thursday, October 24 from 12-1PM in the FPH Faculty Lounge, Lise Sanders, associate professor of English literature and cultural studies, presented a special reading skills workshop to an audience of staff and students. Couldn’t make it? Need a recap? Read on for more information about what you missed, and how to get a hold of the resources that were shared in this session.

What Happened:
While participants enjoyed a free lunch, Lise invited students to share what brought them to the workshop, and what obstacles they most frequently face with regard to completing all of their reading. Common themes in the room included retaining information for class discussion, identifying the most important pieces of information to absorb, how to prioritize reading tasks, and the need to read more effectively in the time allotted for a specific task.

Sound familiar?!

With these concerns in mind, Lise went on to to introduce a variety of different techniques to address these issues, keeping participants engaged with one another through reading, paired sharing, and other activities. Lise shared a number of handouts with the group, and offered participants the opportunity to ask questions after discussing a variety of techniques.

What We Learned:

  • In order to read more effectively, you must commit to being an active and engaged reader. Read with the firm intention of deducing the author’s main point, not just to get through the right number of pages. Your focus will aid your success.
  • Keep in mind that you may need to use different reading tactics for different types of texts, and approach assignments accordingly. Lise shared this handout on reading critical arguments, which provides a step by step overview of how to approach this particular type of text.
  • It’s okay to ask ahead! When you receive an assignment, consider speaking to your professor about what areas of the reading you’ll be focusing on in class discussion. This will help to guide your reading and make you more prepared to participate. If you have concerns, talk to your professor. They may have specific tips to help you maximize the effectiveness of your reading time, particularly with regard to the text at hand.
  • Approaching an entire page of text can be difficult to do. Train your eye to focus on the line you’re reading by using something to mark your place on the page. In the workshop, students used four fingers to guide their eyes across lines on the page, in a technique called long smooth underline. With practice, this can become a mechanical technique for training your eye to move faster.
  • You can diagnose your own comprehension and retention of your reading by pausing from time to time to verbally summarize what you’ve read. Participants engaged in pair sharing of these “tellbacks” to assess their own comprehension in the workshop, but this is also something that you can do on your own, or even record and play back to yourself. By summarizing aloud, you can move the knowledge you’ve gained into deeper memory.
  • When reading nonfiction, you can and should feel free to read the conclusion first. There’s no point in keeping the conclusion a secret from yourself, and reading in reverse can help you to better seek the features that will allow you to identify the main points of the text. Look up terms after your first review so you won’t have to continually stop while you’re trying to read.
  • Remember that as a reader, you have a unique critical perspective. Consider your own arguments and critical engagement with the text while you read — this will help you to gauge your own retention and comprehension.

Really Good Advice: Good Brain Time vs. Bad Brain Time*
Think about the times of day when you’re most “on”. For some of us, it’s first thing in the morning, while for others, it’s very, very late at night. Do you know when your own good brain time is? If so, use it! Prioritize your reading and other tasks based on when you’re most “on” — you’ll likely read and absorb more during your good brain time. Wondering what to do with your bad brain time? Save tasks that require less thinking for these periods. Once you’ve identified your own rhythm, you’ll be able to accomplish more.

*Lise attributes this concept to Lauren Berlant, one of her graduate advisors at the University of Chicago.

Use These Resources:

  • Have questions for Lise? Want to learn more about reading techniques? Get in touch with the workshop facilitator, Lise Sanders, at lsanders@hampshire.edu. She’s happy to help!
  • Can’t get enough of these great academic skills? Join us for another workshop! Our next workshop, Life Management 101, will be held on Monday, November 4 from 3:30-4:30PM in the FPH Faculty Lounge. Learn how to manage your time and improve your organization, all while enjoying some free snacks. See you there!

Questions? Did we miss something? E-mail us at newtohamp@hampshire.edu for more information!

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