Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Topic: Boredom and Difficulty in Reading (4).

10-second review: RayS.’s ideas for helping students deal with boredom and difficulty in reading books and other reading materials.

Previews will stimulate interest and reduce the difficulty of material.

Previewing Short Stories
The previous technique that I suggested when you become mired in boring parts of novels actually came to me when I was reading short stories in The New Yorker magazine. So many of the New Yorker’s short stories were pointless, meaningless and of little interest to me, that I became frustrated at wasting time reading them. How could I learn if the story was worth my time?

That’s when I discovered the one-paragraph-a-page-or-column technique. In relatively little time, I was able to sample the story, gain an idea of the plot and decide if the story was worth reading in its entirety. It never failed. I tried an experiment. If I decided the story was not worth reading in its entirety, I would try reading it all the way through and found that, sure enough, it wasn’t. If the preview of one paragraph per page or column interested me, I would read the entire story. So now I test every short story I read to see if it catches my interest and spend relatively little time doing it.

Finally: Reading Difficult Materials
The preview will help. Even with highly technical textbooks, previewing gives the reader an “overview” of the important ideas. But now you have to go back and read every chapter as if it is to be memorized. In How to Study in College, Walter Pauk (Houghton Mifflin, 1984) says that there is only one way. Take it one paragraph at a time and summarize each paragraph.

Comment: Readers can stimulate interest in what they read by previewing. They can break down the difficulty of difficult books by previewing. But if they have to read a book as if it is to be memorized, the best method of study is to summarize every paragraph in the chapter—after having previewed it by reading the first paragraph, the first sentence of each intermediate paragraph and the last paragraph. RayS.

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