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Are You Reading Correctly? How to Read Effectively for School in Singapore

Rule #5 in MindWork's 8 Rules for Academic Success series may appear conspicuous, but before you roll your eyes, read on first!

Rule #5 is "Know how to read"

Make sure you have read Rule #1, Rule #2, Rule #3, and Rule #4 to see a drastic difference in your grades! Subscribe to MindWorks Blog to make sure you receive email notifications for when Rules #6, #7, and #8 are published.

Student reading for secondary english literature class in Singapore

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.” ― Margaret Fuller

We cannot stress how important reading is. Most of the information we know we have acquired through books or textbook articles in textbooks, newspapers and online resources. As students, all of us know how to read. However, reading and understanding concepts quickly are skills that are not commonly taught in schools nowadays. Therefore, while we may be linguistically competent in reading, we don't know how to read to understand and remember everything thoroughly.

To excel, it is vital to learn how to read quickly and effectively as our concentration decreases with time, and there are also other activities such as CCA, social events, TV and games fighting for your time.

Below are some examples of not reading effectively:

1. You don't have to read word for word.

Some ‘kiasu’ students want to read everything in the textbook all at once. They will go through all the examples, diagrams and each word of every paragraph. More often than not, this will waste time. Instead, it would be best if you identify and read the keywords.

For example, in the excerpt sentence below from a Chemistry textbook, you may find that more than 50% of the words are redundant:

For thousands of years, people have known that vinegar, lemon juice and many other foods taste sour. However, it was not until a few hundred years ago that it was discovered why these things taste sour - because they are all acids. The term acid, in fact, comes from the Latin term acere, which means "sour". While there are many slightly different definitions of acids and bases, in this lesson, we will introduce the fundamentals of acid/base chemistry.

In the seventeenth century, the Irish writer and amateur chemist Robert Boyle first labelled substances as either acids or bases (he called bases alkalies) according to the following characteristics:

Acids taste sour, are corrosive to metals, change litmus (a dye extracted from lichens) red, and become less acidic when mixed with bases.

Bases feel slippery, change litmus blue, and become less basic when mixed with acids.’

[source: Anthony Carpi, PhD. “Acids and Bases (Previous Version)” Visionlearning Vol. CHE-2 (2), 2003. ]

Student studying inorganic chemistry in the chemistry lab in a Singapore school

The core concept of the above paragraph is merely this:

Acids taste sour, are corrosive to metals, change litmus red, and become less acidic when mixed with bases.

Bases feel slippery, change litmus blue, and become less basic when mixed with acids.

As shown above, you will be able to shorten the time spent reading and effectively grasp key concepts by focusing on keywords.

2. You don't have to keep your textbooks clean!

Students discuss homework questions after school in Singapore

Many students love their textbooks so much that one cannot find any markings or highlights on them. However, this is not the right way to go. Studies have shown that marking out keywords in the textbook help students to focus on important concepts, and when they revisit the chapter, it is easier for them to recall the key points. Moreover, students are also kinesthetically engaged when highlighting the textbooks, further enhancing their memory. So, try it out! Buy some fun coloured highlighters. You may even colour code your highlighting, making the information visually stand out in your textbooks.

pink and green highlighters

However, do not be overzealous and highlight every single sentence. That defeats the purpose of highlighting!

3. Read through and understand concept maps!

A major improvement to our textbooks nowadays is the inclusion of a concept map for each topic. It shows the connection between key ideas in each chapter and acts as a summary. It is wrong to skip or place a low emphasis on this part as it is a powerful way to commit the topic to memory since it is visual, which makes it fairly easy to remember.

You can also go a step further and devise your own concept map as you reiterate ideas using your own words, thereby enhancing and this enhances memory. If you show your concept maps to your teacher or tutor, it will help them to see what you do not understand or have misunderstood.

Our brains process and store images better.

Think about the many symbols -

Mc Donald's logo and fries

When you see this M shape, you will immediately think of MacDonald’s red, yellow and white logo and Ronald MacDonald.

What about this red and white flag with 1 moon and 5 stars?

Singaporean flag

Or a silver apple with a bite on its right?

Apple logo

I’m sure you thought of Singapore and Apple, respectively. This goes to show that visual symbols help associate information we learn. Similarly, we will comprehend and remember information much better when we store each chapter as a concept map.

4. Get a tutor to help!

Now, many students struggle alone with reading and understanding the key materials from classes. While showing this ownership over your learning is excellent, sometimes textbooks can't provide all the help we need. This is why, if you are still struggling, consider talking to your parents to hire a tutor! MindWorks Tuition makes it very easy to find the perfect tutor for your needs. Please fill out this form, or have us call you back.

Your future is in your hands, and with these study tips, we believe you can achieve anything!

Happy learning!

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