Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Back to School for Those Who Go to School (and homeschoolers!)--Tip V: Preview Textbooks

Tip V of XII: Preview Kids’ Textbooks With Them at the Beginning of School

“The object of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.” Robert M Hutchins

For all types of schoolers—a post on previewing textbooks with our children. I am going to post this for those attending school, but hope that those who homeschool will utilize it as well. (Note: This was posted in three parts a year ago for back-to-school tips in a different series—with some changes.)

Comprehension and study skills are not necessarily as much remembering all of the details that were read as much as knowing how to read for meaning, remembering the most important parts, and being able to locate information as needed. Students’ textbooks in the content areas (science, history, government, health, geography, etc.) lend themselves greatly to comprehending the information they contain.

I recommend that you have your kids bring their textbooks home, one at a time, and follow some of the tips below previewing their books with them. This will help them (and you) determine the signaling systems, layout, study tools, etc. that each book includes.

A student needs to now quickly how to find information in his book, whether there’s a glossary or index for quick vocabulary help, how each section is summarized, and many other tips that can be discovered right when he begins using that text (with some help from Mom or Dad). By previewing his whole text at first, he will know how user friendly it is, how to set up his notes, and even which study strategies will and will not work for that particular text.

Sitting down with your student and his textbooks (maybe one per evening) during the first week will go a long way towards his comprehension and ease of use of those books throughout the school year. Try these specific strategies for previewing textbooks with your student to help him or her get the most out of his or her texts this year:

1. Graphs and charts—Remind your student that charts and graphs usually restate (in another form) what is indicated in the text. He can use these for quick overviews, as well as for reviewing before tests.

2. Enumerations—If his text uses a lot of enumeration, it could be that this subject has a significant number of lists to be learned. Point him to these lists and show him that often what is listed in the margins or sidebars is also expounded upon within the text.

3. Section headings—The more headings a book contains, the easier it is to learn from. The student is constantly reminded, by the headings and subheadings, of what the section is about. Show him how helpful these headings can be as he uses the book during his reading and for test preparation.

4. Pictorial aids—Maps are always in included in history textbooks. If his textbook contains a large assortment of maps, show him how they can help him see the big picture. Maps usually show where something that is discussed in the text occurred.

5. Glossary—Books that contain glossaries give the student an easy way to find definitions that may be more obscure within the text. Teach him to use this for quick finds, but encourage him to use the text itself for most studying since students who learn vocabulary in context retain it better.

6. Tables of Contents—The Table of Contents can be used somewhat like an index to find where information is in a particular chapter. It is especially good for getting a big picture about a whole chapter.

7. Prefaces, introductions, and summaries—If a text has any of these three, some of the work is already done for the student. Show him how advantageous these are for quick previewing of a chapter.

8. Footnotes—If a student is in a class that requires research papers, footnotes can be a real plus. We teach our research paper students to use lengthy works’ footnotes to find other credible sources that they might use in their papers.

9. Appendixes—Appendixes are the “extra credit” of the book. I always like to thin of myself as a prized pupil, so I tend to gravitate to these right at first, since they’re usually for those who want additional information—and I always want to know more! Tell your students that sometimes the appendixes aren’t even used in the actual course, but they are good for learning more, for research-based reports, and for cementing what is found in the text.

10. Indexes—If a book doesn’t have an index, I say send it back and get a new one! Show your student how quickly he can find information with the index. The more specific the index, the better it is for the student.

11. Bibliography—The bibliography gives lists of books, articles, and documents relating to the subjects in the textbook. Like footnotes, we direct our research paper students to these.

12. Pronunciation guides—These guides give the phonetic markings to aid in reading unfamiliar words. Many texts do not have these guides, but they are helpful in a class where a student will be giving presentations so the can pronounce unknown words correctly.

Any signaling or sign posting that a book contains is that much more opportunity for the visual learner, especially, to learn and retain. If you have an auditory learner, you might have to record his vital info on cd or cassette! Smile…

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