It took me years to figure out how to read for meaning and effectively study for exams. Then I discovered ways to organize work into a map or image that I could visualize in my mind. I found that by doing so, I could grasp and retain information for longer periods of time, which in turn improved my test scores. At Inspiration® Software, we want to make a difference in students’ lives by helping them think, study and learn to increase comprehension, retention and writing.
Visual learning strategies are a great way to take notes and organize thinking. In my past post titled “Do You See What I’m Saying,” I discussed in great detail what it means to be a visual learner and how educators can adjust teaching methods to help visual learners learn. Today, I have compiled a few steps for reading and understanding textbook material, especially when reading history textbooks, that I hope you find beneficial and share with your students.
Steps to reading for meaning and studying for the test:
- Open up a new document in Diagram View with either Inspiration® or Webspiration Classroom™ service.
- Pull out your textbook and skim the chapter, reading the introduction and closing paragraphs, any section guides or goal boxes, headings, words, dates and terms set in bold or italic. Don’t forget the pictures, tables, diagrams and their captions. This process helps you get a sense of what the chapter is about.
- Now think about what you want to know about the information. Type the main point of the chapter’s title into the main idea and add questions you want to answer. Remember the 5 W’s, who, what, where, when, and why when formulating your questions.
- Now go back and read the chapter. As you read, diagram the subject headings, adding key points and sub-points to your map. Use the Rapid Fire tool to quickly type in your information and ideas without worrying about creating symbols or drawing connections. If you have a lot of text, put the key words in the symbol and add the rest of the details in the symbol’s Notes text area by clicking the Notes button on the tool bar.
- Refer back to your questions and as you read continue to add content to your map.
- As you run across vocabulary, key terms or dates, record those into symbols and add their definition or meaning into the symbol’s Notes.
- When you are done reading, review your notes and link supporting details to main topics, adding images and color to your map to help you visualize the concepts and material. Drag symbols around to organize the information in a way that makes visual sense to you.
- Once again, review your questions and fill in the gaps by returning to the text book and the notes in your map to draw your own conclusions.
After completing your map, review it multiple times to visualize the big picture of the chapter and to understand the connections between different sub-points, ideas or facts. This last step is the key. Show and hide the Notes to self -study terms and vocabulary in flash card style. Read through the visual map you created and practice by closing your eyes to recall the information on the page visually in your mind. See the main points and then the branches of details off the main points. This method helps you connect the ideas and anchor the details in your mind. Visualizing your map with closed eyes can help immensely in taking exams, as all your main points and supporting details appear in your mind’s eye.
Teaching these leaning skills and ones like them, will help you students learn effectively even when you are not around to help them and ultimately that is what it is all about, teaching and preparing our youth to be independent , continuous learners, that are curious, thoughtful and successful throughout their academic career and in whatever they do in life.
President and Co-Founder, Inspiration Software