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Hyperfocus: 5 tips to retain information when reading a textbook
With more college courses being taught online, reading course material is more important than ever. While videos and audio recordings along with other learning activities also provide valuable information, reading is likely to be the primary means of learning course content. Since you will be doing substantial reading each week, here are five tips to help you avoid mental burnout and better retain important textbook information.
Pace Your Reading
Have a plan for your course readings. You don’t have to do them at the same time each day, but have an idea of the best times for you to read, for example, when things are quiet. Avoid skimming rather than taking time to fully think about, ponder, and absorb essential material. Some students read for a certain period of time, like two hours, each day. Others devote a couple of days weekly to reading assignments. Students who read whenever they feel like it or have a pressing deadline may not get as much out of the assignment. Develop a reading plan so that you don’t just work at it in when convenient or overlook your reading assignments until the last minute. It also helps to have a designated reading area, although some students prefer to read in varied locations like the campus library, the lawns, or a dorm room.
Annotate the Text
Whether you handwrite or type, don’t be afraid to take notes about your readings. If you own the textbook and plan to keep it, you can write in the page margins. If you are reading online assignments, you may be able to take notes electronically in the margins, or you can take separate notes in a document or notebook. Interacting with the text helps you to dig deeper into the meaning and be able to process the information more thoroughly. Ask questions, confirm definitions of words you aren’t sure about, challenge the author’s assertions, highlight key points, and draw arrows to show relationships among connected ideas.
During one of your reading sessions, take breaks at least once an hour to rest your eyes and disconnect from the text. This allows you to relax briefly, move around, or get a snack. Try to return to your reading within ten minutes or so to avoid losing momentum and focus. If you are being distracted by a roommate or family member making noise or playing music, postpone your reading for a quieter time.
Sometimes, complex material may be difficult to comprehend. When that happens, pause, reread the section, and make sure it’s clear before moving on. After completing a reading assignment, review it to make sure you have gleaned the key points. Some textbooks have checklists or summaries at the end of a chapter or unit for this purpose. It also may help to review your readings with other students online or in a study group.
Do Supplemental Reading
Take advantage of supplemental instructional materials placed on hold or recommended for optional reading, if provided. You can also do additional reading or research on your own about the topic to strengthen your understanding of the main ideas.
Reading is an important skill that should be done effectively and efficiently. Rushing through a textbook assignment without fully grasping main ideas could put obstacles in your learning path. Take time to read carefully. Make sure you understand what you are reading. If you have questions, ask your instructor or a classmate. You could also meet with a tutor for assistance.
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