Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Finding Treasure: Mark the Spot!

Bert Web (Open Loops) again highlights a point I've been making with first-year composition students for years: Books are best when marked up. Any book can be received as a conversation inviting the reader to participate; mapping that conversation as it unfolds better equips the reader to incorporate the information and ideas into the reader's own developing thought, to access the source material with more effective remembrance, and to meaningfully contribute to conversations taking place beyond the book. Here are a few dos and don'ts:
  1. don't use a highlighter - fine tip colored pens let you see color while giving you the ability to write, and writing is what makes it count
  2. don't mark large portions of text - you're looking for the 20% of the text you'll want later
  3. don't mark up (map) the more-or-less disposable items you read (newspapers, magazines)
  4. don't mark the obvious - if you already know it, don't mark it
  1. do mark the text with a pencil or pen - you're making treasure as well as mapping it!
  2. use post-it notes when the text itself wants to be preserved - textbooks at school don't qualify for this rule
  3. locate and mark the topic sentence in a passage - you're going for the main idea
  4. use code - create that bank of symbols that mean something to you and can be used to save time. a favorite for me is "E" with a circle around it to indicate a "biggie" idea.
  5. write questions in the margin
  6. circle new words
  7. note "connecting" ideas/writers - those passages that speak to others writers/writings
  8. cross-reference ideas to other locations inside the text - create structure (1, 2, 3, 4, ...)
  9. draw arrows - mine are often long, snakey, and across pages
  10. finally, and most importantly in my "book," re-write the big idea in abbreviated form in the margin - this idea will get the most mileage when you return to the text for remembering or for finding your way in the next conversation

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1 comment:

Ken said...

Great stuff. I actually read with a highlighter and colored pencils. Pencils for mapping and notes. Highlighter is generaly reserved purely for quotes or snippets that I know I'll want to find again to quote or reference.