Friday, December 11, 2009

How To Study For English Class

In a sort of follow-up to yesterday’s entry, excuse a bit of teacher business. There will be a quiz on this material Monday :). Here are some tips to develop good study habits for English:

Motivation: if you have a definite purpose or goal, you will find it easier to learn the habits and skills of effective studying. The study of humanities (history, English, philosophy, art, literature, et cetera.) will help you to become an educated person. Courses in these subjects develop skills in critical reading, writing, and thinking. Therefore, these course are important and deserve your effort and attention, no matter what your career plans may involve.

Study at the same time, at the same place, on a regular schedule every night. Plan on spending at least 30 minutes per academic subject each night, but also realize that some courses may require more time than others. Give more time to the subjects that you find most difficult. During your study periods, do nothing but studying. Have a separate time for relaxation and rest.

Take good lecture notes. Questioning and listening are basic skills required when taking notes for lecture courses. Listen for key phrases the teacher uses to emphasize such as: "the main point is..., remember this..., et cetera." Listen for repeated statements and emphasized words and concepts. Do not attempt to copy down every word given in a lecture. Learn to extract the essential information by identifying the major points the teacher makes. If you do not understand something, ask a question.

Keeping good lecture notes is not the same as taking good notes. After lecture notes have been taken down, review them and reduce to key terms and concepts in a clearly defined order. Review everything, and if needed, rewrite and reorganize.

There is a method to studying written work for notes, and it is called SQ3R. Here it is: (S) survey the material, reading carefully; (Q) question everything you don't understand and try to find or develop answers for each question; (R) reread the work again, looking for missed facts and details; (R) rewrite the major points in your own words in detailed, analytical terms; (R) review the major points before class.

Date your notes and keep them neat and organized. Separate each class into its own section in your notebook.

Sit at a desk or table and read the piece through. Do not lay in bed or have the TV or radio playing while reading. These things distract you and lessen your concentration.

Read the book through, underlining key material, marking whole key passages and pages where the most important material is found.

Reread the book by reading the marked places and take careful, brief notes on the significance of the material. Work through the piece again asking yourself these questions: Who are the characters? What happens in the piece? What do you think the author means in this piece? What is his or her message?

Read through the questions at the end of the selection. If you have been assigned the questions, do them. If not, try to answer them in your head as you go along. Any uncertainties, look up the answers in the selection.

Keep a reader’s journal. Write down your thoughts, impressions and feelings regarding what you read. If you hated the selection, give concrete reasons why you disliked it. (Unrealistic characters, confusing plot, etc.)

Remember, reading is an active process. You have to work at it and not just expect the work to jump at you off of the page. How much you learn is directly related to how hard you concentrate.

Study your notes and then circle the most important notes you have taken which lead you to a conclusion about a possible theme.

Write a paragraph or two in your notebook summarizing the action, character, plot and theme of the work. Include as much detail as possible.

When taking exams, look for critical words and know their meanings: compare, contrast, criticize, define, describe, diagram, discuss, evaluate, explain, illustrate, interpret, justify, list, outline, prove, relate, review, summarize, and trace.

You should consider this a standard homework assignment to be done every night in addition to whatever else is assigned that day in class.

Thus endeth the lesson.

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