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Goal Setting
More often than not students will finish a reading assignment with the comment that they didn't "have a clue" what they read. Further, they will readily admit the reading was boring and they had a difficult time staying focused. Reading with understanding is one of the biggest obstacles which face today's student. Planning a reading episode is the most often ignored step in the reading process.

A well-planned reading episode consists of many parts - all which have an integral role in a successful learning outcome. To plan a reading episode, you must determine the amount of time you will need, how you will record important information, what you want to learn and be able to do with the information read, how you will monitor your progress, and how you will evaluate the end-product.

Performing a survey: By spending some time surveying your chapter before you begin to read, you can successfully plan your time, identify the chapter organization, identify what format would be best for note taking, set knowledge objectives such as being able to compare and contrast multiple topics or trace a process, and identify the author's objectives. Unfortunately, students often fail to survey chapters. It is one of the most useful tools you can employ to increase comprehension. If done properly, surveying will activate your prior knowledge about the content, will help you know what is important before you begin, and will help you understand the author's purpose(s). Thus, you will prepare your mind to search for important information and relationships before you begin to read. Would you take a trip to an unfamiliar destination before you consult a map?

Time management: After performing a survey to identify the information density of the chapter and to determine the amount of material to read(i.e., 20 pages, 30 pages), you can better plan the amount of time needed to successfully read the section. Throughout the reading event, you should monitor how you use your time and adjust accordingly. Planning long blocks (two hours or longer) for reading new information is usually not appropriate. Be specific when planning reading - don't say, "I'm going to read Chapter 4." Say, "I'm going to read and mark pages 49 - 60." Planning your time appropriately should help increase your comprehension levels and will help reduce stress.

Setting knowledge goals: After performing the survey, which includes reading the chapter objectives, introduction , headings, summary and questions, you will know what information is important and know what you need to understand. Thus, in you mind, you will develop knowledge goals. For example, assume you are enrolled in U.S. History. You are reading about the 1870's. A knowledge goal might be to compare event D to Event E, to identify the events which led up to the Events D and E, and to integrate this information with earlier information about events A, B, and C.

Recording information: Students will often begin to daydream around page five of a moderately dense text book if they are not mentally actively engaged in the text. For instance, they often highlight everything in a chapter. This is truly boring and will lead to daydreaming. Often highlighting is not a form of active mental engagement - it is a physical activity. Active engagement includes writing notes, setting up matrices which show relations, and actively asking questions about relationships.

Setting the mood: Dim lighting and music are not appropriate for a successful academic reading event. Many students will argue they are able to "read" with the TV or music in the background. However, when questioned closely they admit they hear when their favorite song comes on or character "appears" in the TV program. Setting the mood means getting ready to read in an environment where you will not be disturbed by: someone leaving a message on your answering machine; interruptions by a roommate, your friends, or a party taking place down the hall; or pangs of hunger. Setting the mood means focusing your attention on the task at hand, thinking about what you are going to read, and either eliminating distracters in the environment or physically moving into a more reading-conducive environment. Return to the web site next week to learn more about affective reading.




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