Unformatted text preview: In this chapter you
will explore Confessions of a COLLEGE STUDENT . . . ‘‘ ’’ BREE SCHIPPER, 29
Kalamazoo Valley Community
College reading college textbooks more challenging than reading high school texts or reading for pleasure? College texts are loaded with concepts, terms, and complex information that you are expected to learn on your
own in a short period of time. To accomplish all this, you will find it helpful to
learn and use the active reading strategies in this chapter. They are intended to
help you get the most out of your college reading. The following plan for active reading is designed to help you read college textbooks. When you read actively, you use strategies that help you stay focused.
Active reading is different from readings novels or magazines for pleasure. Pleasure
reading doesn’t require you to annotate, highlight, or take notes. But as you read
college textbooks, you’ll use all these strategies and more. This plan will increase
your focus and concentration, promote greater understanding of what you read,
and prepare you to study for tests and exams. The four steps in active reading are
3. Reading with Concentration
4. Reviewing The purpose of previewing is to get the big picture, that is, to understand
how what you are about to read connects with what you already know and
to the material the instructor covers in class. Begin by reading the title of the
chapter. Ask yourself: What do I already know about this subject? Next,
quickly read through the introductory paragraphs. Then read the summary at
the beginning or end of the chapter if there is one. Finally, take a few minutes
to skim the chapter, looking at the headings and subheadings. Note any study
exercises at the end of the chapter.
As part of your preview, note how many pages the chapter contains. It’s
a good idea to decide in advance how many pages you can reasonably expect
to cover in your first study period. This can help build your concentration
as you work toward your goal of reading a specific number of pages. Before
long, you’ll know how many pages are practical for you.
Keep in mind that different types of textbooks can require more or less
time to read. For example, depending on your interests and previous
knowledge, you might be able to read a psychology text
more quickly than a logic text that presents a
whole new symbol system.
Mapping the chapter as you preview
it provides a visual guide for how different chapter ideas fit together. Because many students identify themselves as visual learners, visual mapping is
an excellent learning tool for test preparation, as well
as reading (see chapter 4, Discovering How You Learn).
To map a chapter, use either a wheel structure or a branching
structure as you preview the chapter (see Figure 7.1). In the wheel
structure, place the central idea of the chapter in the circle. The central
idea should be in the introduction to the chapter and might be apparent in
the chapter title. Place secondary ideas on the spokes emanating from the
circle, and place offshoots of those ideas on the lines attached to the spokes.
In the branching map, the main idea goes at the top, followed by supporting
ideas on the second tier and so forth. Fill in the title first. Then, as you skim
the chapter, use the headings and subheadings to fill in the key ideas.
Perhaps you prefer a more linear visual image. If so, consider making an outline of the headings and subheadings in
the chapter. You can fill in the outline after you read. Alternatively, make a
list. A list can be particularly effective when you are dealing with a text that
introduces many new terms and their definitions. Set up the list with the
terms in the left column, and fill in definitions, descriptions, and examples
on the right after you read. Divide the terms on your list into groups of Wheel Map Branching Map five, seven, or nine, and leave white space between the clusters so that you
can visualize each group in your mind. This practice is known as chunking.
Research indicates that we learn material best when it is in chunks of five,
seven, or nine.
If you are an interactive learner, make lists or create a flash card for each
heading and subheading. Then fill in the back of each card after reading each
section in the text. Use the lists or flash cards to review with a partner, or recite the material to yourself.
Previewing, combined with mapping, outlining, or flash cards, might require more time up front, but it will save you time later because you will have
created an excellent review tool for quizzes and tests. You will be using your
visual learning skills as you create advanced organizers to help you associate
details of the chapter with the larger ideas. Such associations will come in
handy later. As you preview the text material, look for connections between
the text and the related lecture material. Call to mind the related terms and
concepts that you recorded in the lecture. Use these strategies to warm up.
Ask yourself: Why am I reading this? What do I want to know? After completing your preview, you are ready to read the text actively. With
your skeleton map or outline, you should be able to read more quickly and
with greater comprehension. To avoid marking too much or marking the
wrong information, first read without using your pencil or highlighter.
Think a moment about your goals for making marks in your own texts.
Some students report that marking is an active reading strategy that helps
them to focus and concentrate on the material as they read. In addition, most students expect to use their text notations when they study for tests. To meet
these goals, some students like to underline, some prefer to highlight, and
others use margin notes or annotations. Figure 7.2 provides an example of
each method. No matter what method you prefer, remember these two important guidelines:
1. Read before you mark. Finish reading a section before you decide which
are the most important ideas and concepts. Mark only those particular
ideas, using your preferred methods (highlighting, underlining, circling
key terms, annotating).
2. Think before you mark. When you read a text for the first time, everything can seem important. Only after you have completed a section and
have reflected on it will you be ready to identify the key ideas. Ask yourself: What are the most important ideas? What will I see on the test? This
can help you avoid marking too much material.
Two other considerations might affect your decisions about textbook
marking. First, if you just make notes or underline directly on the pages of
your textbook, you are committing yourself to at least one more viewing of
all the pages that you have already read—all or most pages of your anatomy
or art history textbook, for instance. A more productive use of your time
might be taking notes, creating flash cards, making lists, or outlining textbook chapters. These methods are also more practical if you intend to review
with a friend or study group.
Second, sometimes highlighting or underlining can provide you with a
false sense of security. You might have determined what is most important,
but you have not necessarily tested yourself on your understanding of the
material. When you force yourself to put something in your own words while
taking notes, you are not only predicting exam questions but also assessing
whether you can answer them. Although these active reading strategies take
more time initially, they can save you time in the long run because they not
only promote concentration as you read but also make it easy to review. If
you can use these strategies effectively, you probably won’t have to pull an
all-nighter before an exam. Students commonly have trouble concentrating or understanding the
content when they read textbooks. Many factors can affect your ability to concentrate and understand texts: the time of day, your energy
level, your interest in the material, and your study location.
Consider these suggestions, and decide which would help
you improve your reading ability:
Find a study location that is removed from traffic and
distracting noises such as the campus library. Turn off
your cell phone’s ringer, and store the phone in your purse
or book bag (someplace where you can’t easily feel it vibrating).
If you are reading an electronic document on your computer, download
the information that you need and disconnect from the network to keep
you from easily going online and chatting, e-mailing, or using Facebook
or MySpace. differences
cultural stress acceptance of
affect stress 4 patterns of
acculturation Refugees and immigrants are often unprepared for the dramatically different values,
language, food, customs, and climate that
await them in their new land. Coping with a
new culture can be extremely stressproducing (Johnson & others, 1995). The
process of changing one’s values and customs as a result of contact with another culture is referred to as acculturation. Thus, the
term acculturative stress describes the
stress that results from the pressure of adapting to a new culture (Berry, 1994, 2003).
Many factors can influence the degree of
acculturative stress that a person experiences. For example, when the new society is one that accepts ethnic and cultural
diversity, acculturative stress is reduced
(Shuval, 1993). The ease of transition is
also enhanced when the person has some
familiarity with the new language and
customs, advanced education, and social
support from friends, family members, and
cultural associations (Finch & Vega, 2003).
Cross-cultural psychologist John Berry
has found that a person’s attitudes are important in determining how much acculturative stress is experienced. When people
encounter a new cultural environment,
they are faced with two fundamental questions: (1) Should I seek positive relations
with the dominant society? (2) Is my original cultural identity of value to me, and
should I try to maintain it?
The answers to these questions result in
one of four possible patterns of acculturation: integration, assimilation, separation,
or marginalization (see the diagram). Each
pattern represents a different way of cop- ing with the stress of adapting to a new
culture (Berry, 1994, 2003).
Integrated individuals continue to value
their original cultural customs but also seek
to become part of the dominant society.
Ideally, the integrated individual feels comfortable in both her culture of origin and
the culture of the dominant society, moving easily from one to the other (LaFromboise, Coleman, & Gerton, 1993). The
successfully integrated individual’s level of
acculturative stress will be low (Ward &
Assimilated individuals give up their old
cultural identity and try to become part of
the new society. They may adopt the new
clothing, religion, and social values of the
new environemnt and abandon their old
customs and language.
Assimilation usually involves a moderate
level of stress, partly because it involves a
psychological loss—one’s previous cultural
identity. People who follow this pattern also 1* 2* face the possibility of being rejected either by
members of the majority culture or by members of their original culture (LaFromboise &
others, 1993). The process of learning new
behaviors and suppressing old behaviors can
also be moderately stressful.
Individuals who follow the pattern of
separation maintain their cultural identity
and avoid contact with the new culture.
They may refuse to learn the new language,
live in a neighborhood that is primarily populated by others of the same ethnic background, and socialize only with members of
their own ethnic group.
In some instances, such withdrawal from
the larger society is self-imposed. However,
separation can also be the result of discrimination by the dominant society, as when
people of a particular ethnic group are
discouraged from fully participating in the
dominant society. Not surprisingly, the level
of acculturative stress associated with separation is likely to be very high.
Finally, the marginalized person lacks cultural and psychological contact with both
his traditional cultural group and the culture of his new society. By taking the path of
marginalization, he has lost the important
features of his traditional culture but has not
replaced them with a new cultural identity.
Marginalized individuals are likely to
experience the greatest degree of acculturative stress, feeling as if they don’t really
belong anywhere. Essentially, they are stuck
in an unresolved conflict between the traditional culture and the new social environment. They are also likely to experience
feelings of alienation and a loss of identity
(Berry & Kim, 1988). 3* possible
both cultures *separation
discriminating higher stress
with separation 4* *marginalized
= higher level
of stress Read in blocks of time, with short breaks in between. Some students can
read for fifty minutes; others find that a fifty-minute reading period is too
long. By reading for small blocks of time throughout the day instead of
cramming in all your reading at the end of the day, you should be able to
process material more easily.
Set goals for your study period, such as “I will read twenty pages of my
psychology text in the next fifty minutes.” Reward yourself with a tenminute break after each fifty-minute study period.
If you have trouble concentrating or staying awake, take a quick walk
around the library or down the hall. Stretch or take some deep breaths,
and think positively about your study goals. Then resume studying.
Jot study questions in the margins, take notes, or recite key ideas. Reread
confusing parts of the text, and make a note to ask your instructor for
Focus on the important portions of the text. Pay attention to the first and
last sentences of paragraphs and to words in italics or bold print.
Use the glossary in the text or a dictionary to define unfamiliar terms. The final step in active textbook reading is reviewing. Many students expect
to read through their text material once and be able to remember the ideas
four, six, or even twelve weeks later at test time. More realistically, you will
need to include regular reviews in your study process. Here is where your
notes, study questions, annotations, flash cards, visual maps, or outlines will
be most useful. Your study goal should be to review the material from each
chapter every week.
Consider ways to use your many senses to review. Recite aloud. Tick off
each item in a list on each of your fingertips. Post diagrams, maps, or outlines
around your living space so that you will see them often and will likely be
able to visualize them while taking the test. As you begin reading, be sure to learn more about the textbook and its author
by reading the front matter in the book, such as the preface, foreword, introduction, and author’s biographical sketch. The preface is usually written by the
author (or authors) and will tell you why they wrote the book and what material it covers. Textbooks often have a preface written to the instructor and a
separate preface for the students. The foreword is often an endorsement of the
book written by someone other than the author, which can add to your understanding of the book and its purpose. Some books have an additional introduction that reviews the book’s overall organization and its contents chapter by
chapter. Front matter might also include biographical information about the
authors that will give you important details about their background. Some textbooks include questions at the end of each chapter that you can
use as a study guide or as a quick check on your understanding of the chapter’s main points. Take time to read and respond to these questions, whether
or not your instructor requires you to do so.
Textbooks must try to cover a lot of material in a fairly limited space.
Although many textbooks seem detailed, they won’t necessarily provide all
the things you want to know about a topic—the things that can make your
reading more interesting. If you find yourself fascinated by a particular topic,
go to the primary sources—the original research or document. You’ll find
those referenced in many textbooks, either at the end of the chapters or in the
back of the book. You can read more information about primary and supplementary sources on page 126.
You might also go to other related sources that are credible—whatever
makes the text more interesting and informative for you. Remember that most
texts are not designed to treat topics in depth. Your textbook reading will be
much more interesting if you dig a bit further in related sources. Because
some textbooks are sold with test banks that are available to instructors,
your instructors might draw their examinations directly from the text, or they
might use the textbook only to supplement the lectures. Ask your instructors, Wired WINDOW if they have not made it clear, what the tests will cover and the types of questions that will be used. In addition, you might try to find a student who has
taken a course with your instructor so that you can get a better idea of how
that instructor designs tests. Some instructors expect that you will learn the
kinds of detail that you can get only through the textbook. Other instructors
are much more concerned that you be able to understand broad concepts that
come from lectures in addition to texts and other readings.
Finally, not all textbooks are equal. Some are simply better designed and
written than others. If your textbook is exceptionally hard to understand or
seems disorganized, let your instructor know your opinion. On the basis of
what you say, your instructor might focus on explaining the text and how it
is organized or might decide to use a different text for future classes. While the previous suggestions about textbook reading apply across the
board, mathematics textbooks present some special challenges because they
tend to have lots of symbols and very few words. Each statement and every line in the solution of a problem need to be considered and digested
slowly. Typically, the author presents the material through definitions,
theorems, and sample problems. As you read, pay special attention to definitions. Learning all the terms that relate to a new topic is the first step toward
Math texts usually include derivations of formulas and proofs of theorems. You must understand and be able to apply the formulas and theorems, but unless your course has a particularly theoretical emphasis, you
are less likely to be responsible for all the proofs. So if you get lost in the
proof of a theorem, go on to the next item in the section. When you come
to a sample problem, it’s time to get busy. Pick up pencil and paper, and
work through the problem in the book. Then cover the solution and think
through the problem on your own. Of course, the exercises that follow
each text section form the heart of any math book. A large portion of the
time you devote to the course will be spent completing assigned textbook
exercises. It is absolutely vital
that you do this homework in
a timely manner, whether or
not your instructor collects
it. Success in mathematics requires regular practice, and
students who keep up with
math homework, either alone
or in groups, perform better
than students who don’t.
After you complete the assignment, skim through the other exercises in the
problem set. Reading the unassigned problems will deepen your understanding of the topic and its scope. Finally, talk the material through to yourself, and
be sure your focus is on understanding the problem and its solution, not
on memorization. Memorizing something might help you remember how to
work through one problem, but it does not help you understand the steps involved so that you can employ them for other problems. Your approach to your science textbook will depend somewhat on whether
you are studying a math-based science, such as physics, or a text-based science,
such as biology. In either case, you need to become acquainted with the overall
format of the book. Review the table of contents and the glossary, and check
the material in the appendices. There, you will find lists of physical constants,
unit conversions, and various charts and tables. Many physics and chemistry
books also include a minireview of the math you will need in science courses.
Notice the organization of each chapter, and pay special attention to graphs,
charts, and boxes. The amount of technical detail might seem overwhelming,
but—believe it or not—the authors have sincerely tried to present the material
in an easy-to-follow format. Each chapter might begin with chapter objectives
and conclude with a short summary, sections that can be useful to study both
before and after reading the chapter. You will usually find answers to selected
problems in the back of the book. Use the answer key or the student solutions
manual to promote your mastery of each chapter.
As you begin an assigned section in a science text, skim the material quickly
to gain a general idea of the topic. Begin to absorb the new vocabulary and
technical symbols. Then skim the end-of-chapter problems so you’ll know what
to look for in your detailed reading of the chapter. State a specific goal: “I’m
going to learn about recent developments in plate tectonics,” or “I’m going to
distinguish between mitosis and meiosis,” or “Tonight I’m going to focus on
the topics in this chapter that were stressed in class.”
Should you underline and highlight, or should you outline the material in
your science textbooks? You might decide to underline or highlight for a subject
such as anatomy, which involves a lot of memorization. But use restraint with
a highlighter; it should pull your eye only to important terms and facts. If highlighting is actually a form of procrastination for you (you are reading through
the material but planning to learn it at a later date) or if you are highlighting
nearly everything you read, your highlighting might be doing you more harm
than good. You won’t be able to identify important concepts quickly if they’re
lost in a sea of color. Ask yourself whether the frequency of your highlighting is
helping you be more active in your learning process. If not, you might want to
highlight less or try a different technique such as margin notes or annotations.
In most sciences, it is best to outline the text chapters. You can usually
identify main topics, subtopics, and specific terms under each subtopic in your
text by the size of the print. For instance, in each chapter of this textbook, the
main topics (or level-1 headings) are in capital blue letters with a rule below.
Following each major topic heading, you will find subtopics, or level-2 headings, printed in smaller blue letters. The level-3 headings, which tell more about
the subtopics, are in bold, blue capital letters, but are much smaller than the
To save time when you are outlining, you won’t write full sentences, but
you will include clear explanations of new technical terms and symbols. Pay special attention to topics that the instructor covered in class. If you aren’t
sure whether your outlines contain too much or too little detail, compare
them with the outlines members of your study group have made. You could
also consult with your instructor during office hours. In preparing for a test,
it’s a good idea to make condensed versions of your chapter outlines so that
you can see how everything fits together. Many of the suggestions that apply to science textbooks also apply to reading
in the social sciences (sociology, psychology, anthropology, economics, political
science, and history). Social science texts are filled with special terms or jargon
that is unique to the particular field of study. These texts also describe research
and theory building and contain references to many primary sources. Your
social science texts might also describe differences in opinions or perspectives.
Social scientists do not all agree on any one issue, and you might be introduced
to a number of ongoing debates about particular issues. In fact, your reading
can become more interesting if you seek out different opinions about a common
issue. You might have to go beyond your particular textbook, but your library
will be a good source of various viewpoints about ongoing controversies.
Textbooks in the humanities (philosophy, religion, literature, music, and
art) provide facts, examples, opinions, and original material, such as stories
or essays. You will often be asked to react to your reading by identifying central themes or characters.
Some instructors believe that the way in which colleges and universities
structure courses and majors artificially divides human knowledge and experience. For instance, they argue that subjects such as history, political science,
and philosophy are closely linked and that studying each subject separately
results in only partial understanding. By stressing the links between courses,
these instructors encourage students to think in an interdisciplinary manner. You might be asked to consider how the book or story you’re reading or the
music you’re studying reflects the political atmosphere or the culture of the
period. Your art history instructor might direct you to think about how a particular painting gives you a window on the painter’s psychological makeup or
religious beliefs. Whether or not your instructor requires you to read material in addition to
the textbook, your understanding will be enriched if you go to some of the
primary and supplementary sources that are referenced in each chapter of
your text. These sources can take the form of journal articles, research papers, dissertations (the major research papers that students write to earn a
doctoral degree), or original essays, and they can be found in your library and
on the Internet. Reading source material will give you a depth of detail that
few textbooks accomplish.
Many sources were originally written for other instructors or researchers. Therefore they often use language and refer to concepts that are familiar
to other scholars but not necessarily to first-year college students. If you
are reading a journal article that describes a theory or research study, one
technique for easier understanding is to read from the end to the beginning.
Read the article’s conclusion and discussion sections. Then go back to see
how the author performed the experiment or formulated the ideas. If you
aren’t concerned about the specific method used to collect the data, you can
skip over the “methodology” section. In almost all scholarly journals, articles
are introduced by an abstract, a paragraph-length summary of the methods
and major findings. Reading the abstract is a quick way to get the gist of a
research article before you dive in. As you’re reading research articles, always
ask yourself: So what? Was the research important to what we know about
the topic, or, in your opinion, was it unnecessary? An important step in textbook reading is to monitor your comprehension.
As you read, ask yourself: Do I understand this? If not, stop and reread the
material. Look up words that are not clear. Try to clarify the main points
and how they relate to one another.
Another way to check comprehension is to try to recite the material
aloud, either to yourself or your study partner. Using a study group to monitor your comprehension gives you immediate feedback and is highly motivating. After you have read and marked or taken notes on key ideas from
the first section of the chapter, proceed to each subsequent section until you
have finished the chapter. After you have completed each section and before you move on to the
next section, ask again: What are the key ideas? What will I see on the test?
At the end of each section, try to guess what information the author will present in the next section. With effort, you can improve your reading dramatically, but remember to
be flexible. How you read should depend on the material. Assess the relative
importance and difficulty of the assigned readings, and adjust your reading style and the time you allot accordingly. Connect one important idea to
another by asking yourself: Why am I reading this? Where does this fit in?
When the textbook material is virtually identical to the lecture material, you
can save time by concentrating mainly on one or the other. It takes a planned
approach to read textbook materials and other assigned readings with good
understanding and recall. Textbooks are full of new terminology. In fact, one could argue that learning
chemistry is largely a matter of learning the language of chemists and that
mastering philosophy, history, or sociology requires a mastery of the terminology of each particular discipline.
If words are such a basic and essential component of our knowledge,
what is the best way to learn them? Follow the basic vocabulary-building
strategies outlined in the following box. The English language is one of the most difficult languages to learn. Words
are often spelled differently from the way they sound, and the language is
full of idioms—phrases that are peculiar and cannot be understood from the
individual meanings of the words. If you are learning English and are having
trouble reading your texts, don’t give up. Reading slowly and reading more
than once can help you improve your comprehension. Make sure that you
have two good dictionaries—one in English and one that links English with
your primary language—and look up every word that you don’t know. Be
sure to practice thinking, writing, and speaking in English, and take advantage of your college’s helping services. Your campus might have ESL (English
as a Second Language) tutoring and workshops. Ask your advisor or your
first-year seminar instructor to help you locate those services.
Listening, note-taking, and reading are the essentials for success in each of
your classes. You can perform these tasks without a plan, or you can practice
some of the ideas presented in this chapter. If your notes are already working,
great. If not, now you know what to do. Where to go FOR HELP . . . Chapter REVIEW . . .
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