Career & Education

How to read the textbook

Dr Karla

Sunday, April 08, 2018

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The textbook is a valuable learning instrument. Unfortunately, many students find it daunting and generally leave them untouched.

The purpose of reading the textbook is to gain knowledge and understanding and to supplement classroom learning. The way the textbook is read determines to a large extent what you get out of it. Simply opening it and passively reading will be ineffective and essentially a waste of time. Students must employ methods of active reading.

The following list contains some of the advantages of using a textbook as a form of study:

• It provides a road map of the syllabus for the course.

• It provides security for the students because they have a backup resource to classroom learning.

• It provides a set of visuals, activities, questions, etc.

• It provides teachers and students with a basis for assessing learning. Some textbooks include tests or evaluation tools.

• It may include supporting materials such as CDs and worksheets.

• It provides consistency within a programme across a given level, if all teachers use the same textbook.

While there is more than one method of actively reading, the one I like the best is known as the SQ3R (survey, question, read, recite, review) method. The following is adapted from

A description of each of the steps involved in the SQ3R method is given below:

These five steps, when applied to textbooks, will help you in making your study time more efficient and effective. While this method will take time and practise to master, once it is learned and applied it will no longer be necessary to reread textbook chapters. The added benefit of using the SQ3R method is that often you will find your own questions appear on a test. Because many taechers use the textbook as an outline for their courses, test questions will be coming from the same source as yours. As you review your notes and texts, you will be able to predict and prepare answers for many exam questions.

1. SURVEY: This survey should take no more than 10-25 minutes, even on the longest chapter. The purpose of surveying the chapter is to get a general idea of what it is going to be about, what kind of information the author gives, how many sub-topics the information is broken down into, and how much time you will have to spend reading it. Read the following:

• Chapter title

• Introduction

• Objectives

• Vocabulary

• Summary

• Review questions

• Boldface headings

• Graphics and their accompanying captions.

2. QUESTION: (Turn each boldfaced heading into a question by using one of the following words: who, what, where, when, why, or how.)

The reason for creating a question out of each heading is to set a purpose for reading the material in more detail. When you are reading to find the answer to a specific question, you are reading actively.

3. READ: Actively read the section of the text accompanying the heading for an answer to the question you asked yourself in step 2. The answer will usually be made up of the main idea(s) of the paragraph(s) and the supporting details. Read the section to find the answer. The purpose of reading is to find the answer to your question.

4. RECITE: Recite to yourself the answer to each question. Put the answer into your own words, or rephrase the author's words. Be sure that you can recall the answer, not just recognise the information as correct. Write the questions in your notebook along with a few key words or phrases that summarise the answer. The purpose for doing this is to help you think about and understand what you have read. When you rewrite or rephrase what you read, your comprehension and retention will improve.

5. REVIEW: To review, cover the answers and ask yourself the questions. If you can't answer the question, look at your notes and test yourself again. Once you are sure you know and understand the question and answer, check it off. The purpose for reviewing is to help you prepare for the eventual test. Remember that very few people read textbooks for pleasure; they are read to acquire information and to remember and apply it in a testing situation. Reviewing helps you remember the information.

I believe that the SQ3R method of reading should be taught in schools so that students make the most of their time and gain maximum benefit from their textbooks.

Dr Karla Hylton is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools. She operates Bio & Chem Tutoring, which specialises in secondary level biology and chemistry. Reach her at (876) 564-1347, or




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