Remember What You Read: a technique to learn how to digest the important points of any reading

Reading comprehension is not automatic. Helping students with this vital skill, when they are first learning it, can only help them multifold in the future with writing and more difficult readings. When the student considers the information within a text to be meaningless, create a story connecting those facts!

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In late elementary and early middle school, students learn the skill of comprehending what they have read. They are starting to ask themselves, “What are the main points? Which are the supporting facts versus the actual arguments?” Reading is the gateway to writing. While they compose their essays, they will ask themselves the same questions. Learning reading comprehension is an important step in any child’s education. Not every student can read well. Some students struggle to connect the details and myriad of facts they encounter. What do you do?

I am mesmerized by people with an excellent memory. One can demonstrate this asset through the memorizing of decks of cards. I cannot do this and never will, but it got me thinking. Cards themselves are basically meaningless pieces of information. If you can find a way to remember them, then you can carry that over onto other situations.

I gave my students random cards from a deck. I asked them to remember those cards for 30 seconds. They did so easily when I did not talk, but the second round I talked during those entire 30 seconds and they were unsuccessful. Then, when I showed them how to make the random cards into a story, the students were able to remember the cards for any length of time within the lesson.

Here is an example:in video slides.003
Jack = The jack
Loves = The heart suit
To ace = Ace
Irish = The clubs suit
5 = 5
Higher = the spades suit (it looks like an up arrow)

After this, I want to hone the skill of story telling, with that story lasting only a sentence or two. I give my students random facts and ask them to connect them into a story. We must concentrate on this, because a story that does not connect properly will be harder to remember. If I say, “A man runs down the street and sees a boy,” now I must remember him running and seeing the boy, which is more work. I can tweak the story somewhat…. “A man runs and almost trips over a boy sitting in the street.” Now I have a bond between the man and the boy. You cannot have the man tripping without the boy in the street. Many times I will give the students random pieces of information in order for them to practice making meaningful connections.

Here is an example:in video slides.005
I make the story and also reinforce items: an old man with an old and a $12 ring for a 12 year-old granddaughter.

Lastly, we need to apply this to an actual reading assignment. I will ask the students to read the passage to themselves and then ask me about any words they do not know. Then we will go over it together to make sure they understand the words and passage 100%. Now we employ the story-telling technique in order to keep track of: the main argument, something in parallel or conflicting, and one example.

Here is an example:in video slides.007A mother goes shopping with her teenage, ninja son. He says, “Mom, all my friends are wearing black! I want this shirt.” She responds, “We are just regular farmers. You should dress normally. I like this shirt more.” Though inauthentic it captures the main points in a funny and unexpected way. (text original source here)

Stories are more potent and useful when they are weird, funny, and unexpected. The goal of the story is to digest and install the information without making your mind work even harder to remember even more. As you move through a reading, you can employ this technique as you go. Instead of trying to remember what happened two paragraphs up, just review the story going on in your mind.

They are learning a skill with this, not merely a method. They are connecting facts over and over. With time, the inventive and strange stories slip away and what remains is the ability to keep track of and connect information within a reading.

Everyone will have different stories and they may see them as a movie in their mind or just more text. This is adaptable to all kinds of learners because it is completely individualized. Making the short story serves as a vehicle to remember and digest what the student has read. Try it today!

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