Simple techniques I learned from my high school literacy teacher
i hated books
80% of the kids in my eighth grade didn't read books.
Back then, our English teacher introduced the concept of a book club.
We all sat in a circle and she explained that we would read a book together and then meet once a week to discuss it. I wasn't keen on the idea, but I had no other choice.
The book my teacher chose was Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.
I started reading for homework. But I couldn't help it. I read the whole book in a few days.
When we met for our discussion at the book club, I couldn't answer a question my teacher asked.
Try as I might, I couldn't describe what happened in the story or what the characters were like.
As he watched my fight, he gave me some storage tips that have stuck with me.
By combining these techniques, I eventually created a system that has always worked for me. And these techniques weren't just for books. I've used them for textbook reading, book reviews, and analyzing research papers for my master's degree in engineering.
They have helped me maintain my reading speed while retaining more information. I'm sure they will do the same for you. Before we get into that, I want to highlight a few key issues.
Have you ever read a book and ended up thinking, "What did I just learn?" Your mind may not have been able to store the information properly. In this manner?
Well, when you absorb new information,Your brain uses three different types of memories: short-term memory, working memory and long-term memory.
If the information isn't stored properly, it can slip out of your working memory very quickly, causing you to forget it.
Because of this, understanding how to properly store new information in your brain is important if you want to retain information better.
The answer is yes and no.
If you have a photographic memory, you can remember everything you read.
But it is also a skill that can be developed.
However, there are some caveats.
You firstNeural pathways need time to process information and store details properly. You can't expect to sit down and read a book in one go and remember it all without taking regular breaks.
Second, repetition is key. If you want to remember something, you have to repeat it over and over again over a period of days and weeks.This creates memories: permanent grooves in your neurons.
Finally, you need to find the right tools to help you remember. There are a variety of methods and techniques that can help you better retain information.
Here are some secrets to remembering everything you read.
Filtering the information means focusing on the most important points so that you, the reader, can concentrate bettercarefullyabout what is better remembered later.
By omitting superfluous details and irrelevant points, filtering provides structure to ensure what's left is memorable.
Here's what to look for:
- Important events
- main ideas
- important passages
- relevant parties
- Your prior knowledge to focus on important concepts
As a reader, you can even create custom categories to mark details and ensure nothing is overlooked.
For example,If you're reading an article about the American Revolution, create categories like:
- Causes - consequences - main actors - lasting effects
That way, you can more easily remember important details when it comes time to remember what you've read.
ÖFeynman-Technikis learning through understanding, reproduction and teaching, a method that helps you remember everything you read and build strong memories.
This technique makes learning easy so that learning is fun and easy instead of tedious.
Here are the steps:
Step 1 - Learn:
Pick a topic and start studying it. Break it down into its main parts and try to understand it as a whole.
Step 2 - Teach:
Once you have learned the subject, teach it to someone else. They can provide feedback and let you know if something is unclear.
Step 3 - Fill in the blanks:
If there are things you don't know, go back and study them. Focus on turning those weaknesses into strengths.
Step 4 – Simplify:
Make the topic understandable for everyone. This will help you master the information and understand how all the different elements fit together.
Let me explain it with an example:
Suppose you are trying to learn about the American Revolution.
Write down what you know about the American Revolution and explain it in simple terms:
The American Revolution was a war between the 13 British colonies in North America and Great Britain. The colonists fought for their independence from British rule, which they finally achieved in 1783.
By breaking down complex concepts into simple steps, you actively engage with and reinforce the information. They also ensure that what you learn is accurate and complete.
The Feynman Technique isn't just for reading; It's a great way to check the facts and keep them for a long time.
Our memories are amazing when used well. Everyone has at least once in their life experienced remembering something so vividly that it seems like it was yesterday.
Adapt the book you're reading to your environment to ensure these connections stick in your mind and stay with you.
For example, if you are reading about a person who has orange hair, try to find something around them that is also orange, like an orange vase or chair.
Small numbers, such as colors or shapes, that are unintentionally triggered by the environment help memories linger in our minds for longer, allowing us to more vividly recall specific memories that are directly related to the material we are reading.
Using this strategy can help readers retrieve information from books more easily, making learning easier and more enjoyable.
self referenceIt is a mnemonic technique that connects the material you are trying to remember to itself.
if you read, youBrains are constantly trying to make sense of the material.Their brains are meaning machines, and they will naturally try to connect new information with what they already know.
The more connections you can make between new information and what you already know, the better chance you have of retaining that information.
Here are some questions I ask myself to make those connections:
- what does it remind me of
- How is this similar to something I already know?
- How is this different from what I already know?
- How does this affect my life or work?
Combining the new information with your existing knowledge will help you understand better.
Firmly anchor the data in your mind.
For example, if you are reading about a certain person, try to imagine how that person is the same or different.
When you read about a historical event, try to think about how that event affected people like you.
Speed reading allows you to quickly grasp the concept of a text/article. Speed reading can help you improve your comprehension faster.
Active/sight reading requires focus and the ability to interact with the author's mind. It can be a real lifesaver when you need to retrieve information from pages you have read.
Speed reading can be done effectively for better recall by following the steps below:
1/. Identify the main idea:
Before you start skimming, take a moment to identify the main idea or purpose of the text. So you can concentrate on the essentials and remember them better.
two/. Read headings and subheadings:
These are usually the most important parts of the text and give you an idea of what the text is about.
3/. Read the first and last sentence of each paragraph:
These sentences usually summarize the main idea of the paragraph and provide an overview of the text.
4/. Look for key words, phrases, and important messages from the passage:
This will help you see the gist of the text and make it easier to remember.
5/. Make Notes/Highlight:
As you browse, keep important points in mind such as cause and effect, descriptive phrases, character building, etc. This will help you remember all the details and will also make it easier for you to review the material later.
6/. Understand the structure of the text:
Notice how the text is organized, how the paragraphs and sections relate to each other, and how the ideas flow.
This technique requires a certain amount of concentration and self-control because sometimes our eyes are drawn to words we don't need to remember and it's important that you stay focused on the task at hand.
As you read, you will undoubtedly come across information that you will want to remember. To ensure that you can easily find and reference this information later, it's important to use a tagging system for your notes.
I used the following tagging system before smartphones came out:
- Idea giver:What is the main idea of the section you just read?
- Example:What is an example that illustrates the main idea?
- Explanation:Because it's important? What are the implications of this?
- Questions:What questions does this raise for me?
But then I created systems to facilitate research.
System Nr. 1
When I read nonfiction, I create a separate document in Evernote.
Then I title each document with the chapter number and name. As I read, I annotate this document with keywords and short sentences.
System Nr. 2
Apple recently released a feature for adding hashtags to your notes. I have used it a lot.
In my Apple Notes, I have specific hashtags like "mind hug", "affirmations", "deep positivity", etc. Save sentences, conclusions, and action plans with them. And these tags make it easier to search whenever I want.
These systems have some advantages.
First, it allows me to quickly find the information I need when studying for a test or writing a blog post. I can search my notes for a specific keyword and all relevant information is displayed.
Second, it forces me to be more concise in my notes. When you need to get your notes into a searchable format, you'll quickly learn to boil the information down to the essentials.
Finally, it allows me to review my notes later. After I finish a book, I can go back and review my notes to cement the material in my mind.
To truly grasp new ideas and facts, it's important to change the way you actually process them.
By developing innovative learning methods such as flashcards, mnemonics or spatial repetition, you can quickly understand more material with fewer attempts.
Eventually, when you are organized when consuming information, your mind stores it better and remembers concepts when needed.
An active reader never sees learning as a burden. They see it as a way to open up new dimensions of wisdom.
Just because you read something doesn't mean you will act on it.
You might think, "Sure thing, I act on ideas, that's the point!"
But in reality, we often forget or discard most of the ideas we come across.
ÖThe human brain is good at filtering out information it doesn't think is important.That means even if an idea is important, there's no guarantee your brain will think it's important.
That's why it's important to have a system in place to respond to the ideas that come your way as you read.
This is what I do:
When I read something and I think, “What a great idea! You should try this," I immediately create a task in my to-do list app, Todoist.
Task creation takes less than 30 seconds, which is a significant step. This ensures that the idea doesn't get lost in the crowd and that you act on it.
I review these action plans every week to make sure I'm making progress.
Reading comprehension requires putting the pieces of the puzzle together to form a complete picture.
Unfortunately, our brains aren't very good at connecting related ideas together. That's why we often forget what we're reading because the ideas in our head aren't properly linked.
The solution is to make connections between related ideas yourself.
A mind map is simply a diagram showing the relationships between different ideas.
To see how:
First select a central idea with which you want to connect other ideas. This could be the main subject of the book you are reading or a specific concept you are trying to understand.
Then create a chart with that central idea in the middle. If you find related ideas while reading, add them to the mind map.
You can connect ideas with lines and arrows to show how they are related.
Suppose you are reading a book about history.
As you read, you can add specific time periods, events, and people to the mind map. You can create a mind map with the following ideas:
This will help you see the big picture and how the different pieces fit together.
Creating connections between related ideas helps your brain better understand and remember the material.
When you sit down to read, it's important to have a specific goal in mind.
Meaningful reading helps you focus on the material and increase your retention.
Ask yourself: What do I want out of it?
Some possible goals are:
- Look for the big ideas in the book.
- Learn to apply the book's concepts to your life or work.
- Find answers to specific questions you have.
- Write strategies.
- Cut out life changing quotes
Reading for a long time can be exhausting and counterproductive.
It's important to take frequent breaks so your brain can rest and absorb the material.
I like to take a break every 20-30 minutes. During my break I will do something to relax and clear my head.
After my break, I take a few minutes to summarize what I've read.
It doesn't have to be anything fancy, just a few sentences that capture the important ideas.
Writing summaries is a great way to improve reading comprehension as it forces you to slow down and think about what you just read.
It also includes a written record for later reference. I often find that when I can't remember something I've read, looking at my summary jogs my memory.
And it also makes it easier to pick up where you left off.
There is no "right" way to improve your reading comprehension. What works for one person may not work for another.
That's why it's important to experiment with different techniques and find the one that works best for you.
Some techniques that have worked well for me are:
- Read with pen in hand (underline, highlight, etc.)
- to read aloud
- Read with a friend or family member
- Take practice tests
- abstract writing
- Syntopic Reading: Reading similar content from multiple sources
- Read books with a reading partner to discuss them
As a critical reader, I know the importance of turning ideas and words into visual images.
So I've adopted an interesting way of remembering everything I read: making mental connections.
When I write or read something, I consciously try to make micro-connections between ideas and words.
For example, when I read about the climate crisis, I start to make connections to various issues arising from climate change, such as deforestation or rising sea levels.
By consciously connecting ideas and visualizing them in a kind of network, I can remember everything I've read on the topic in question.
Like a spider web, each connection is strong enough to hold small bits of knowledge, making it much easier for me to pull ideas from books or articles.
This technique has become crucial as technology shifts reading away from printed material and often to digital copies of what is written.
Mental linking while reading gives my ideas the power to stay with me without the need for pages of paper and ink or screenshots of text.
It's happened to all of us; reads a seemingly important article or book and cannot remember the details.
Focus - Reading - Pause - Asking Questions - Highlighting - Taking Notes - Paraphrasing
This keeps you immersed in what you are reading.
Keep you focused when faced with a constant flow of content, allowing us to separate what really matters and eliminate distractions.
Drawing attention to important concepts with bullet points can provide an effective mental roadmap for reference when needed.
Last but not least, paraphrasing the content in your own words helps build a stronger memory connection.
From people looking to improve their memory and study skills to those who need help retaining information for school or work, reading should be viewed as a tool for growth.
Taking the time to understand how your mind works, developing methods to help you retain information, and dedicating yourself to applying new techniques are all critical parts of being proficient at remembering what you have read.
By developing a process that works for you, the knowledge base becomes more accessible.
So why not challenge yourself now?
See what types of tips work best for you, and remember: practice makes perfect.
Now it's your turn. What would you add to make it even easier for you to remember what you read?