Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Icon

Eight Tips To Understand and Remember What You Read — Especially As You Read Nonfiction

___

Despite Insta­gram, YouTube, Face­book, Twit­ter, and tele­vi­sion, (or per­haps pre­cise­ly because of all of them) tra­di­tion­al read­ing is still an impor­tant skill. Whether it is mag­a­zines, pro­fes­sion­al man­u­als or fas­ci­nat­ing books, peo­ple still need to read, now and in years ahead. And much of it is non­fic­tion mate­r­i­al, where it’s impor­tant to real­ly under­stand and then remem­ber what you are read­ing.

An unfor­tu­nate rea­son why many peo­ple don’t read much these days is that they don’t read well. Read­ing, for them, is slow, hard work and they don’t remem­ber as much as they should. They often have to read some­thing sev­er­al times before they under­stand and remem­ber what they read.

Why? You would think that every­one learns how to read well at school. Schools do try, but I work with mid­dle-school teach­ers and they tell me that many stu­dents are 2–3 years behind grade lev­el in read­ing pro­fi­cien­cy. Some of the blame can be placed on fads for teach­ing read­ing, such as phon­ics and “whole lan­guage,” which some­times are pro­mot­ed in shal­low ways that don’t respect the need for both approach­es. And much of the blame can be laid at the feet of par­ents who set poor exam­ples and, of course, on the young­sters who are too dis­tract­ed by social media and tele­vi­sion to learn how to read well.

Now the good news. For any­one who missed out on good read­ing skills, it is not too late to improve now. I sum­ma­rize below what I think it takes to read with good speed and com­pre­hen­sion. Read the rest of this entry »

Managing brains, not bodies, in the knowledge economy

pink_brain

[Pho­to: Flickr user_DJ_, Bri­an Snel­son via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons]

This Out­dat­ed Approach To Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty Is Bad For Your Brain (Fast Com­pa­ny):

Your car has parts that per­form spe­cif­ic tasks. The radi­a­tor cools the engine. The spark plugs ignite the gas. The intake man­i­fold dis­trib­utes air and gas even­ly to the cylin­ders. We think of a car this way because a car is a machine.

For most of the 20th cen­tu­ry, sci­en­tists mapped the brain in the same way Read the rest of this entry »

Navigating The Many Dangers of Experience

As with “expert,” the root of expe­ri­ence is “experiri,” a Latin word mean­ing “to try out.” Peo­ple with a lot of expe­ri­ence should be will­ing to try new things, as their knowl­edge should pro­vide more con­text and points of view, enable more explo­ration of an issue, and min­i­mize risk with deci­sions. How­ev­er, high­ly expe­ri­enced peo­ple tend to fall into the habits of the past. Once we have accu­mu­lat­ed a valu­able base of knowl­edge, expe­ri­ence pro­vides a use­ful short­cut for deci­sion mak­ing. Rely­ing on expe­ri­ence is very fast and very effi­cient, but it is also poten­tial­ly very dan­ger­ous. Oper­at­ing with the least effort pos­si­ble, the brain retrieves what­ev­er quick­ly seems to fit. We apply past pat­terns to the future. Rather than call upon its amaz­ing cre­ativ­i­ty, too often the brain works as noth­ing but a huge stor­age bin of prece­dents.

Because “close is good enough” as our brain fills in the blanks, we Read the rest of this entry »

Is There a Formula for Smart Thinking?

One day, one of my kids was star­ing at a sim­ple cir­cuit dia­gram. It showed a bat­tery con­nect­ed to a resis­tor and a light bulb. He was doing a home­work prob­lem. The par­tic­u­lar ques­tion that had him stumped asked what would hap­pen to the cur­rent in the cir­cuit if the resis­tor was replaced with anoth­er that had more resis­tance. He hadn’t been in class that day and had nev­er stud­ied elec­tric­i­ty, and so he stared at the dia­gram for a few min­utes with­out com­pre­hen­sion.

My son had reached what psy­chol­o­gists call an impasse, which is real­ly just a fan­cy way of say­ing that he was stuck. Read the rest of this entry »

8 Tips To Remember What You Read

Horizontal Stacked BooksDespite tele­vi­sion, cell phones, and Twit­ter, tra­di­tion­al read­ing is still an impor­tant skill. Whether it is school text­books, mag­a­zines, or reg­u­lar books, peo­ple still read, though not as much as they used to. One rea­son that many peo­ple don’t read much is that they don’t read well. For them, it is slow, hard work and they don’t remem­ber as much as they should. Stu­dents, for example,may have to read some­thing sev­er­al times before they under­stand and remem­ber what they read.

Why? You would think that schools teach kids how to read well. Schools do try. I work with mid­dle-school teach­ers and they tell me that many stu­dents are 2–3 years behind grade lev­el in read­ing pro­fi­cien­cy. No doubt, tele­vi­sion, cell phones, and the Web are major con­trib­u­tors to this prob­lem, which will appar­ent­ly get worse if we don’t empha­size and improve read­ing instruc­tion.

Some of the blame can be placed on the fads in read­ing teach­ing, such as phon­ics and “whole lan­guage,” which some­times are pro­mot­ed by zealots who don’t respect the need for both approach­es. Much of the blame for poor read­ing skills can be laid at the feet of par­ents who set poor exam­ples and, of course, on the young­sters who are too lazy to learn how to read well.

For all those who missed out on good read­ing skills, it is not too late. I sum­ma­rize below what I think it takes to read with good speed and com­pre­hen­sion.

  1. Read with a pur­pose.
  2. Skim first.
  3. Get the read­ing mechan­ics right.
  4. Be judi­cious in high­light­ing and note tak­ing.
  5. Think in pic­tures.
  6. Rehearse as you go along.
  7. Stay with­in your atten­tion span and work to increase that span.
  8. Rehearse again soon.

1) Know Your Pur­pose

Every­one should have a pur­pose for their read­ing and think about how that pur­pose is being ful­filled dur­ing the actu­al read­ing. The advan­tage for remem­ber­ing is that check­ing con­tin­u­ous­ly for how the pur­pose is being ful­filled helps the read­er to stay on task, to focus on the more rel­e­vant parts of the text, and to rehearse con­tin­u­ous­ly as one reads. This also saves time and effort because rel­e­vant items are most attend­ed.

Iden­ti­fy­ing the pur­pose should be easy if you freely choose what to read. Just ask your­self, “Why am I read­ing this?” If it is to be enter­tained or pass the time, then there is not much prob­lem. But myr­i­ad oth­er rea­sons could apply, such as:

  • to under­stand a cer­tain group of peo­ple, such as Mus­lims, Jews, Hin­dus, etc.
  • to crys­tal­lize your polit­i­cal posi­tion, such as why a giv­en gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy should be opposed.
  • to devel­op an informed plan or pro­pos­al.
  • to sat­is­fy a require­ment of an aca­d­e­m­ic course or oth­er assigned read­ing.

Many of us have read­ings assigned to us, as in a school envi­ron­ment. Or the boss may hand us a man­u­al and say Read the rest of this entry »

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

Follow us and Engage via…

twitter_logo_header
RSS Feed

Search for anything brain-related in our article archives

Enter Your Email to receive Sharp­Brains free, monthly eNewslet­ter:

Join more than 50,000 Sub­scribers and stay informed and engaged.