Everyone has two
- long-term (indefinitely,
depending on how often it is referred to)
All information we receive at any
given moment from all of our sensory receptors (site,
hearing, taste, smell touch) goes into short-term memory
automatically. In other words, we do not have to initiate
any conscious thought process to make that occur. For
information to move from short-term memory to long-term
memory, we have to associate it with something that we
already know (in other words, give it meaning).
keeps information in short-term memory by repeating it
over and over again.
One can keep information in short-term
memory longer than the standard three to five seconds
by repeating it. You may have actually done this before
when you were trying to remember a phone number long enough
to dial the phone. This process is referred to as
maintenance rehearsal. If you have ever
studied using flash cards, you were utilizing this process.
There is some question, however,
whether you have actually learned this new information
or simply memorized it. Generally what happens when you
stop the maintenance rehearsal (stop reviewing the flash
cards), the information is quickly forgotten and never
really gets to long-term memory.
allows information to move to long-term memory, and learning
New information will not move to
long term memory without our giving it meaning. We do
this by associating this new idea, whatever it is, to
something that we already know that is similar or related
in some way. This is a conscious thought process which
must be initiated by the reader and it is called elaborate
rehearsal. In order to accomplish this, the reader
must know what he/she knows about the subject or
the topic of the reading.
There are three
different areas in long term memory.
information is something we experienced directly.
information is part of what we are reading.
how to do something.
means both understanding as well as retaining what is
Three levels of
- critical evaluative
You might want to ask yourself, "Is
the information I am reading of any value if I am unable
to remember it?" Or, "Am I likely to remember
any information I do not understand when I read it?"
These two question point out the importance of thinking
of comprehension as both understanding and retaining.
In addition, there are three levels
of reading comprehension:
- At the literal level, the
author formulates the idea for the reader and conveys
it in his/her words (reading the line).
- At the inferential level,
the author merely suggests the idea, and the reader
must formulate the idea based on the suggestion the
author provided, what is sometimes called reading "between
- At the critical evaluative
level, the author really does not play any role.
Here the reader is "beyond the lines," making
objective decisions concerning the value of what has
reading process consists of three steps:
four mental processes occur during those three steps:
in the pre-read
in the through-read
in the post-read
in the post read.
It is during
the pre-read that we activate our prior knowledge.
Which strategy is used depends on the organization of
- In the preview,
we must determine the topic (the person,
place or thing that the reading is about). Before
you can activate what you know, your prior knowledge,
you must have a "trigger" of some kind.
That trigger is the topic. You must know the topic
of what you are going to read before you read if
you expect to retain any of the information you are
given beyond just a few seconds. There
are a number of parts of the text that can be previewed
in order to determine what the reading is about:
title: The title is NOT necessarily the topic.
The topic is the person, place or thing the reading
is about. Although some titles include the topic,
the reader should never assume that the title is
the topic, because often, if taken literally, the
title has nothing to with what the reading is about.
authors: Some authors of fiction always write
in the same genre. Authors of textbooks are sometimes
highlighted at the beginning or end of the book
and their disciplines are identified.
When beginning a textbook, review all of the headings
and ask what do they have in common. Whatever that
is will most likely be the topic. Also, in many
books the reader will find an abstract (Introduction,
Prelude, Prologue etc.). This will often lead the
reader to some conclusion as to what the topic is.
Once the topic
has been determined, now the reader can move forward with
the first of what I call the 4 A's. (Activate Associate,
Assimilate, Accommodate), which occur during the three-step
reading process. When the reader activates his/her
prior knowledge during the pre-read, he/she is essentially
discovering what they know about the topic so that
they will be in a position to connect it or associate
it to during the through-read (actual reading).
You might encourage students to use one of two different
strategies to activate prior knowledge. Which one they
should use is dictated by the organization of the printed
Textbooks are highly organized and lend
themselves to one particular strategy that we will call
the K-W-L. The K-W-L is really nothing more that
a chart used to organize the learning process
and to facilitate elaborate rehearsal:
= what you know about the topic. You
simply fill this column with every thought that
comes to mind when you think of the topic.
= what you expect to learn. This column contains
questions that are raised by each heading or subheading.
The reader can turn the headings into questions
by using words like who, what, when, where, why,
how and which.
= where the reader answers the questions that appear
in the "W" column. To insure elaborate
rehearsal, the reader would answer the questions
after the entire chapter has been read and answer
them in his/her own words rather than the author's.
here for example.
material does not have headings, the K-W-L strategy
will not work. In this case another strategy can be
utilized called mapping. Mapping is really just
a graphic organizer that represents what you know
about a topic before you read and what you learned about
the topic following the reading. The map is based
on a prediction that is reasonable based on your
prior knowledge. The
map requires more than just the topic to activate prior
knowledge. It also requires two or three additional
trigger words. Those trigger words can usually be found
in the title or abstract. When you complete the map,
you have activated enough prior knowledge to make a
logical prediction about what you think the author will
say about the topic. Remember, during the through-read,
you must connect new ideas with "old" ones.
here for example.
- The inductive
outline is a strategy that can be employed during
the through-read. The purpose of the strategy is to
keep the reader focused on the general topic or the
point the author is making. It is an inductive thought
process used as the reader moves from one paragraph
to the next. The unit of print must be divided into
sections to make it more manageable. This is usually
done for you in textbooks by the headings, but in other
kinds of printed information there are few or no headings.
In cases like these the reader should scan the reading
selection looking for paragraphs which may begin with
a transition. Transitions
are signal words that tell the reader that the author
is continuing a thought over a series of paragraphs
or changing his/her thought in the next paragraph. Transitions
signal contrast, thus indicating a change in the direction
of the author's thought and a good place to mark an
end to a section and a beginning of another.
- As the
reader recognizes the point the author made in a
paragraph, he/she moves onto the next. When the
reader reaches the mark or the end of the section,
he/she should quickly ask him/herself what those
ideas had in common and what they said collectively
about the topic of the reading selection. As soon
as those two questions are answered, a generalization
has been made, and then the reader moves on
to the next section.
Both of the
pre-reading strategies have elements that are completed
after you read in the post-read.
The information you retained from the reading was similar
to some thing(s) that you already knew.
If you relied solely on information that you retained
from the reading to answer the question, that thought
process is referred to as accommodation. In other words,
since you didn't already know it or something similar
to it, you must make room for this information in your
long-term memory, or what we have been calling
When the reader
finishes the reading, there should be five to seven generalizations
made and the reader should again ask what do they have
in common and what they say collectively about the topic.
This final generalization will produce the controlling
idea or the point the author made about the topic in the
entire reading selection. Click
here for example.