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

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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 »

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 »

Helping Young and Old Fish Learn How To Think

- “There are these two young fish swim­ming along, and they hap­pen to meet an old­er fish swim­ming the oth­er way, who nods at them and says, “Morn­ing, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then even­tu­al­ly one of them looks over at the oth­er and goes, “What the hell is water?”

- “If at this moment, you’re wor­ried that I plan to present myself here as the wise old fish explain­ing what water is to you younger fish, please don’t be. I am not the wise old fish. The imme­di­ate point of the fish sto­ry is that…”

Keep read­ing the mas­ter­ful com­mence­ment speech giv­en by David Fos­ter Wal­lace to the 2005 grad­u­at­ing  class at Keny­on Col­lege, pub­lished in the Wall Street Jour­nal today:

David Fos­ter Wal­lace on Life and Work (WSJ).

The whole piece makes for the most beau­ti­ful med­i­ta­tion, to savor word by word. The whole arti­cle is real­ly a quote worth read­ing, but let me fea­ture this one

- “Learn­ing how to think” real­ly means how to exer­cise some con­trol over how and what you think. It means being con­scious and aware enough to choose what you pay atten­tion to and to choose how you con­struct mean­ing from expe­ri­ence.”

What a poet­ic intro­duc­tion to brain and cog­ni­tive fit­ness: learn­ing, think, exer­cise, con­trol, con­scious, aware, choose, pay atten­tion, con­struct mean­ing, expe­ri­ence.

Carnival of Human Resources and Leadership

Wel­come to the Sep­tem­ber 17th edi­tion of the Car­ni­val of Human Resources, the vir­tu­al gath­er­ing, every oth­er week, of blog­gers focused on Human Resources and Lead­er­ship top­ics.

Let’s imag­ine all par­tic­i­pants in a con­fer­ence room, con­duct­ing a live­ly Q&A brown-bag lunch dis­cus­sion.

Q: Can you teach Lead­er­ship in a class­room?
- Wal­ly: Not real­ly. Nei­ther the per­son who aspires to become a leader nor HR depart­ments should see lead­er­ship devel­op­ment as an activ­i­ty to be out­sourced to a class­room set­ting. Lead­er­ship is a life­long appren­tice trade, led by the learn­er himself/ her­self. The most HR depart­ments can do is to archi­tect the right set of expe­ri­ences to enable/ accel­er­ate that devel­op­ment.

Q: Can you teach Social Intel­li­gence in a class­room?
- Jon: Accord­ing to a recent Har­vard Busi­ness Review arti­cle, not real­ly. Daniel Gole­man and Richard Boy­atzis say that “our brains engage in an emo­tion­al tan­go, a dance of feel­ings”. And you learn Tan­go by, well, danc­ing Tan­go. Gole­man and Boy­atzis add that “Lead­ing effec­tive­ly is about devel­op­ing a gen­uine inter­est in and tal­ent for fos­ter­ing pos­i­tive feel­ings in the peo­ple whose coop­er­a­tion and sup­port you need.”

Q: Can you pro­vide an exam­ple of apply­ing social intel­li­gence in the work­place, and train­ing on-the-job?
- Suzanne: Sure. Learn to appre­ci­ate your front line employ­ees. They are the ones who inter­act with cus­tomers every day — which some com­pa­nies seem to ignore at their per­il.
- Denise: anoth­er oneWhat can you do when your team falls apart while you’re gone?.

Q: How can you gen­er­ate pos­i­tive feel­ings, when some­times we get stuck in bad news and con­stant quar­ter-by-quar­ter pres­sures?
- Anna: Adding much need­ed per­spec­tive. Please note: Read the rest of this entry »

To Think or to Blink?

(Editor’s Note: Should Ham­let be liv­ing with us now and read­ing best­sellers, he might be won­der­ing: To Blink or not to Blink? To Think or not to Think? We are pleased to present, as part of our ongo­ing Author Speaks Series, an arti­cle by Blind SpotsMadeleine Van Hecke, author of Blind Spots: Why Smart Peo­ple Do Dumb Things. In it, she offers the “on the oth­er hand” to Mal­colm Gladwell’s Blink argu­ment.)

To Think or to Blink?

- By Madeleine Van Hecke, PhD

Is thought­ful reflec­tion nec­es­sar­i­ly bet­ter than hasty judg­ments?

Not accord­ing to Mal­colm Glad­well who argued in his best-sell­ing book, Blink, that the deci­sions peo­ple make in a blink are often not only just as accu­rate, but MORE accu­rate, than the con­clu­sions they draw after painstak­ing analy­sis.

So, should we blink, or think?

When we make judg­ments based on a thin slice of time  a few min­utes talk­ing with some­one in a speed dat­ing sit­u­a­tion, for exam­ple are our judg­ments real­ly as accu­rate as when we ana­lyze end­less reams of data?

Read the rest of this entry »

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