Reading & Understanding a Textbook
December 29, 2018
Reading and writing, are usually the first two things we learn when we start school. Hand in hand with these two are their brothers and sister; spelling and grammar. If they are the first and foremost things we learn every year in approximately 12 years of school, then why are so many people so bad at it. I am no expert; in fact you probably will find some grammar and punctuation mistakes in this blog. But, no matter, I will attempt to offer some helpful hints on how to read EMT technical material for all you students out there.
First know that reading a textbook is very different than reading a novel or story.
Starting a chapter
1. Read the preview or objectives first. They will point you in the direction your attention should take and set the stage for serious learning later.
2. Read the summary next. It will tell you what is most important.
3. Skim the text. This step will help you develop a big picture by looking for headings, bold print and main ideas.
4. Pay attention to the vocabulary. Find definitions of new or difficult words now. Is there a glossary? (A glossary is an alphabetized list of words and their meanings) Write them down so you do not forget.
5. Examine charts, pictures and diagrams. Ask yourself why is this important.
6. If you have done all of the above, you are now ready for in-depth reading. This is reading more slowly and following the reasoning of the text, since now you have a pretty good idea of what is important.
7. Take notes while you read. It keeps your brain from getting tired.
8. After you have read a few paragraphs, stop & think about what you have read. If you do not understand, then go back and reread. If it is still confusing, try to google the concept. Sometimes the internet has an easier or different way of explaining things.
9. To be a successful reader and understand what you are reading you need to be awake & alert. Don’t try this when you are sleepy, you will drool on the book.
10. Even the best readers must reread and take notes to remember what they read.
11. It is quite acceptable to write or make notes in the margins of your textbook or use bright colors of sticky notes.
12. Instead of just taking regular notes, also make some Mind Maps (grouping related information in a highly visual manner) as popularized by Tony Buzan (Use Both Sides of Your Brain). Two examples are Arrow Graphics and showing Contrasts and Similarities, shown below.
Mind maps DO make a measurable difference in the scientific studies of learning. Some EMT Instructors will try and simplify things and make them for you, others will give you handouts that seem to be more complicated than the textbook. In either case, you should start making your own. It will help you to study and really learn the information.
Well, I hope there were some or all parts of this article that you found helpful. Like all things, reading takes practice. Keep practicing!