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Monday, January 31, 2011

Reading to understand

Heard about 4R and SQ3R method? If not, get to know and try them out. They may make you more effective in your studies 

GATHERING POINTS: Silent reading is also needed.  
Instances when we should read aloud have been touched upon earlier in these columns. But most of the time, we shall not be reading to enjoy poetry, or correct errors in pronunciation. So, it is not necessary to read aloud always.
In fact, reading aloud has its defects. Suppose, we are reading a newspaper to quickly have an idea of the important news items. By reading aloud, we cannot do that. On the other hand, silently glance through the headlines and read selectively. 
We read only what is of interest to us. This is possible by reading silently and not loudly. By reading aloud for a long time, we feel tired because by wasting energy. Hence, for studying for a long time, we have to read silently. There is yet another defect in loud reading. We go on reading at a steady speed. Certain ideas may be difficult to grasp. To digest them, we may have to pause, think for some time and then proceed.
A loud reader may not do this. He goes on reading a whole lesson at a stretch at the same speed and then, think that he has studied the chapter.
The truth is that he has passed through the sentences without following what they meant. Moreover, a loud reader reads every word of a passage even if he knows the ideas contained in them.
A silent reader has the advantage of being able to skip the portions he knows well. Some may not read aloud, but they move their lips and tongue as if they are pronouncing each word. Here again, there is the disadvantage that the reader may not change the speed of his reading in keeping with the difficulty level of the passage.
He may pass the passages without understanding the contents properly. Or, he may waste his time slowly reading something he already knows very well. It is true that he does not waste energy by reading aloud. 
Still, he goes through the passages at a steady speed. Also, he is likely to believe that he has mastered the lesson by just going through the lines. We may read silently while studying lessons. Read slowly when we find a passage difficult. Read fast if we feel that a certain portion is easy. If we come across something which we know well, skip it.

All these are simple steps which anybody can easily follow. Experts have made detailed study on reading and have suggested some good methods. We shall go into a couple of them that help improve study habits.

The 4R method Keep in mind four words starting with the letter R: read, recall, reflect and review. 

Read: not just read mechanically, but read carefully, understand every point, question anything unclear, and find the answer to the questions. 

Recall: Stop after a portion has been read, try to remember what you just finished reading, go back to the text if you cannot remember something, and try to write the formula or draw the sketch, if any, in the portion you have read. You should be thorough with what you have learnt. Only after making sure that you have learnt it well, should you proceed further.

Reflect: After some time when you are free, you may try to think about what you have learnt. Perhaps, you will be able to connect the new knowledge with something you already have in mind. This will help you keep the ideas firmly in the mind, and to apply the knowledge in a new situation. 

Review: After a long time, you may try to look back on what you studied. At this stage, you may have forgotten certain things you had studied earlier; but you can quickly bring them back to mind by glancing through the text. 

The SQ3R method: 

The letters stand for survey, question, read, recite, and review. 

Survey: Before you start reading, go through the title, headings, subheadings, pictures and their captions, graphs, charts and maps. You may also look at the chapter summaries, conclusions and review questions. 

Question: While surveying, raise questions such as why you should read the text, what prior knowledge you have on this subject, and how reading this will help you. 

Read: This is the most significant activity. Read with full concentration, focusing your mind on the lesson content, underlining the most important phrases and merging pictures or graphs, if any, with the explanation in the text. Adjust your reading speed to suit the difficulty-level of the passage you are reading. Check if you get the answers to the questions you had raised in the beginning. Try to find answers to the questions at the end of the chapter. Write what you find to be very tough, and also the matter you have to memorise, such as poems or definitions. Solve numerical problems. Try to draw sketches from your memory. Read again what you could not grasp fully in the first reading. Use a dictionary to get the meaning of words. Make notes covering the essential points. Read in manageable chunks. 

Recite: Soon after reading a section, try to summarise in your mind what you just finished reading. Try to recite it in your own words. Which means that you have to speak it aloud. This is the most effective method for transferring material from one's short-term memory to long-term memory. If necessary, improve your notes. Answer the questions orally. Recitation enriches learning, since it involves seeing, saying, and hearing. This process very powerfully hammers the material in your memory. 

 Review: This has to be done at intervals to confirm fully your learning. You should be able to answer all the questions. Any area which is not clear to you should be learnt again. Instead of SQ3R, some suggest SQ4R, the fourth R representing words such as record, repeat, respond, revise or rite (meaning write)


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