Identify prior knowledge about yourself as a student.
Some reading material will naturally fit your own strengths, while others might not. If you are faced with reading material that does not match your strengths, then refocus the material in a way that you can more effectively learn from it.
Ask yourself the follow questions:
- What do I know about this type of reading and my own study skills that can help me learn from the reading-
- What type of learner am I in this subject- How does my learning style match this type of reading-
- What kinds of texts do I find easiest to process and learn from- Do I find charts and diagrams helpful or do I ignore them when reading and learn best from the text itself-
- What is my past experience with this kind of reading- Do I find it easy or difficult to understand- What strategies have I tried in the past with this kind of reading- What has worked best-
- Do I have preferences for specific kinds of studying at different times of the day-
This assessment of your prior knowledge will help you determine your reading strategies. For example, if you learn better from pictures and diagrams but are faced with a text-heavy reading assignment, create your own pictures and diagrams to help understand the material. If you read more effectively at certain times of the day, then use this to create the optimal conditions for learning the material. If you are unclear about what style of learning suits you best, go to the How Do You Learn page to learn how to assess your learning style.
Identify prior knowledge about the subject.
It is easier to learn something new if you can connect it to something you already know. If you do not immediately recognize your prior knowledge, stop to ask yourself some questions.
- What do I already know related to the subject of this reading-
- What do I already know about this class that will help me understand the material-
- Have I read something else on the same subject that makes a counter-argument-
Understand the structure of the text.
The structure of the text can help you understand the author's purpose and argument before you begin to read; understanding this structure will help you organize your thoughts as you read. Some kinds of texts (e.g., textbooks) provide an easy-to-use structure. Other texts, such as academic articles and novels, might not have an obvious structure, but understanding the typical structure of these kinds of texts can help you formulate your strategies.
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