How to Use Textbooks Study Aids
Textbook publishers have added numerous pedagogical (teaching) aids over the years. Almost all textbooks published today take advantage of the latest understanding about how students learn and incorporate these into their textbooks. Since you’ve already paid for the study aids you should use them.
Before You Read
Many students make the mistake of just jumping in and reading a chapter from beginning to end. It is commendable that you get started, but starting smart is just as important. Take a few minutes to get the “lay of the land” before you start to read. We learn faster and recall information better if we’ve first created a framework into which to place it.
Table of Contents
This is a list of the main topics of the text. Reviewing this list frequently will help you to understand the text’s organization and the relationships between the different sections. If the professor uses a different order of chapters make certain you understand why.
Chapter titles provide useful information about the contents of the chapter. You need to know the big picture of the detailed information you will be reading so keep this title in mind. Refer to the table of contents or to previous lecture notes to understand how this topic relates to what has gone before.
Chapter Previews, Outlines, Goals, or Objectives
Most textbook now provide you with a list of the big idea within the topic of the chapter. These show how the chapter is organized and what the author thinks you should carry away form the reading. These outlines provide you with a framework into which to place the information you will take from the chapter.
Don’t just confine yourself to examining the preview of the chapter before you read. Lots of helpful preliminary information be gathered from the end of the chapter materials as well. It is sometimes helpful to even look at the review questions prior to reading. These will help you identify the important information and help you read with a purpose: answering the questions.
Reading the chapter summary prior to the chapter will give you some idea as to the type of information you should be finding as you read. Chapter summaries may appear at the beginning or end of the chapter.
As You Read
You’ve done a lot of work already. But now you’re ready to read the chapter. Do so in small sections. Textbooks today have provided you with well organized readings organized in a logical way. As you read continue to pay attention to the textbook’s pedagogical aids.
Headings prepare you for what you are going to read in each section as well as organizing the text. Using headings helps you to make the necessary connections between what you have read and what you are about to read. This is called reading with a purpose, which is perhaps then single most important aid to understanding. Desultory reading results in tepid learning. Have a purpose more immediate than making a grade. Look for information that may be useful in your day-to-day conversations or personal evangelism or argue with the text book (or the professor) or try to find important biblical connections, etc, etc.
Glossary and Marginal Notes
Marginal notes are provided by the text publishers to clarify ot point out critical issues. Definitions of key technical words are critical to mastering any discipline and should be a top priority in your reading.
Charts, Diagrams, and Pictures
Graphics are used extensively in most textbooks today. The modern reader is visual and daunted by page after page of plain text. But graphics are more useful than simply brightening up the page. You must “read” as you read the rest of the text by understanding how they are related to the text and what information they add
List of Key Terms and Glossary
Keep your eye out for the key terms so that they are readily accessible while you are reading. Don’t read over words or key terms without looking them up. By the way key terms are good candidates for test questions.
Often graphics, special descriptions of a technique, tables that can help you work material included in an appendix may be of two types. 1) It may be additional explanation or review necessary to understanding the chapter. 2) It may be additional material or a special topic. If it is the former make certain that you read it. If it is the latter then read and study as the professor advises you or for your own interest. But if this material is not required make certain you are attending to the material that is required first.
The index will help you to locate an obscure or interesting topic elsewhere in the textbook. The index can be very helpful in reviewing your notes or preparing for tests especially if you find items in the notes or the reviews that are not immediately clear to you. Look them up.
After You Read
You’ve read the chapter, but don’t quit now. This is where the real learning can take place.
Read the summary again this is a necessary review, which will consolidate your learning, and it can help you organize your thinking and recognize the relationships among the main ideas.
The review questions are there for a purpose. Try to answer them. By doing so you can test your knowledge about what you have just read. And remember that learning is asking and answering questions.