Tag Archives: comprehension

Read and Reap: Suck the Facts Out of Your Texts

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Holy-frikkin-mooses. I just read three paragraphs in my Whirled History book, and I don’t have clue one on what it was about. How can I fish the beefy info chunks outta the steamy cesspool of facts that is my reading assignment?

If that’s your main pain, then consider this simple drill to make your mind into a magnet for important points in your reading.

First, mark up a (disposable) copy of your reading assignment. Take a red pen or marker and start eliminating non-essential words. Get all guvmint-censor/evil-english-teacher on it. Your goal is to mark out as much of each sentence as possible while still retaining the overall meaning. It should look like you tapped a vein and bled all over the paper. Continue reading Read and Reap: Suck the Facts Out of Your Texts

© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.

Simple Way to Boost Reading Focus

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dugthedog.jpgAnyone who has ever tried to bulldoze their way through a narcolepsy inducing SAT or GRE reading comprehension passage will know just how hard it is to maintain focus when reading. No matter how hard you try to feign interest in scintillating topics like “The History of Corn Prices in 19th Century Dubuque” or “An In-Depth Look at Catatonia in Clams” we just can’t seem to keep our gray matter engaged. We end up like that dog in the movie Up. “Squirrel!”

I’ve got an easy fix to help keep your wayward brain on track and boost your comprehension.

Don’t be like Saint Ambrose.

Saint Augustine noted that when he went to visit Ambrose–then the bishop of a hoppin’ 4th Century Milan–he often found him reading silently. No lie. The guy read without saying the words out loud! I know. Weird, right? “When he read,” Continue reading Simple Way to Boost Reading Focus

© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.

Metaphors; Crowbars for the Brain

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Crowbar_2_(PSF)Construct your own brilliantly apt metaphors to ratchet up your understanding of difficult concepts. Metaphors map difficult concepts on to easier concepts to produce new insights, promote understanding, and supercharge recall. Here’s how…

[hidepost]Example Metaphor; metaphors are to learning what binoculars are to vision; they help concentrate and focus our thoughts, often enabling us to see things we normally wouldn’t. Can you think of other ways they might compare? In order to do so, you’ll have to think deeply, comparing and contrasting. That right there is brain fertilizer, folks.

But why stop with just one metaphor? Come up with several. Each time you do, you’ll ferret out new ways of knowing about the subject at hand.

Example two; metaphors are like* coffee filters. You pour in the unprocessed knowledge grounds and turn up the heat of concentration, steeping it in thought, and out comes hot, tasty understanding.

*A simile is a type of metaphor that uses “like” or “as” to explicitly compare to unlike things.

Many metaphors for understanding difficult concepts are well known; the way gravity bends space-time is like the way a heavy ball would bend a tightly-stretched rubber sheet, our brain functions in many ways like a computer, the DNA in our cells is like an instruction book for how to build our bodies. I’m sure you can think of many more.

But don’t wait for someone else to supply you with the metaphor; do the work yourself! The textbook or your prof might spoon feed you a useful analogy, but the hand-crafted tool will be much more memorable and eye-opening.

CAUTION: Don’t rely on just one! Metaphors are powerful, but they aren’t reality. Every metaphor is LIKE the concept in some ways and UNLIKE the concept in others. If you place your trust in just one metaphor, it’s easy to have holes in your understanding. Like a fisherman using two different sized nets, use two or more metaphors to increase your catch of knowledge![/hidepost]