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How to absorb what you read

Reading a good book can be a rewarding experience, but it can be frustrating when the information just floats through your head without sticking in your memory. Luckily there are a few methods that can really make a difference in retaining information. The bookworms at Stack Exchange provide some tips to help your Jeopardy game.

I like to read nonfiction books on various topics that I'm interested in, but I find that the information doesn't really stick.

For example, I read a biography of Thomas Jefferson about a year ago and I can't really remember anything about it, except that he was born in 1743. When I see/listen to authors that are role models to me, like Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, they are able to routinely cite from books. I've even seen Hitchens quote a book, giving the page number as well, from memory.

I want to be able to store information like these people but, if possible, without reading a book more than once. What method(s) can I undertake to ensure I get the most possible information from a book when I read it?

3-Step Program ( Answered by TRdH )

Memory is built on three components:

1. Impression
2. Association
3. Repetition

A single one of these components can be enough to memorize anything. However, weaving the three components together is the most secure way to remember anything, once and for all. Let me illustrate each component:

Impression

When you are very impressed by something (an idea, a picture, a sound, a face, a text, a situation), the probability that you will remember it is much higher. For example, if as a child you were left alone lost in a mall for a while, you might remember the whole situation very accurately. Same with your book: if you are very impressed by something Thomas Jefferson did in his life, the chance you will remember this aspect becomes higher. The good thing is that you can increase the strength of this impression yourself while reading.

Perhaps you are reading something for a school assignment, a novel, or a technical summary of the country’s current economic situation when you suddenly realize that you are only reading the words, but you are not really absorbing anything. In other words, you do not understand the content in front of your eyes.

You have probably experienced this yourself countless times, but have you ever thought about why this happens?

How to absorb what you read

We often keep reading stuff without actually understanding the material. (Photo Credit: Pixabay)

Before we begin, it is important to note that the answer to this question, and most other questions related to the mind and the central nervous system, especially cognition, is not well understood by researchers; the underlying physiological processes responsible for these functions cannot be explained by a solid answer backed up by concerted scientific experimental evidence.

Here’s a funny fact: You may have certain beliefs that sound pretty intuitive, which might make you think you know why your brain acts the way it does.

However, it is just one of the known flaws in human thinking, which is called introspective illusion.

How to absorb what you read

Simply put, all this means that we do not really know why we end up “reading on autopilot” without understanding any of what we are reading. So, this is essentially just logical speculation trying to answer the question.

Hebbian theory – Reading on autopilot

How to absorb what you read

The “keep reading, but the mind wanders off” effect is widespread, or at least more common than you might think. If you think that you are one of the few who suffer from this and that most well-read people don’t, then I have only one thing to tell you…

When you read something, your brain connects the contents of your memory in either a new or at least less frequently used way.

In neuroscience, there is a theory – Hebbic Theory – that suggests an explanation for the adaptation of neurons in the brain when learning, specifying a learning rule that says that the connection between two neurons could be strengthened if the neurons fire the same time.

For this to happen, you must focus on the subject you are reading about. You should “do something” with what you are reading and think about how, for example, to visualize a scene in your head, create a mental summary, etc. These are the processes associated with working memory and can help in the formation of connections mentioned above.

How to absorb what you read

If you’re thinking about something else while reading something, your brain fails to actively ‘engage’ with what you are reading. (Photo Credit: Pixabay)

Working memory and reading

When you think about something other than reading, your working memory is busy / overloaded with other thoughts, such as daydreaming. As a result, you cannot make connections within your knowledge base because you are thinking about something else. So you may have read a full page, but your brain cannot process it in a meaningful way.

Think of your attention like a spotlight on a stage that draws and grabs your attention. Usually, you only focus on what is in the spotlight, even though a lot is going on outside the spotlight.

However, that doesn’t mean that you have completely locked out everything else that happens outside the spotlight. You are also there, only that you are not “involved” with them to that extent.

How to absorb what you read

(Photo Credit: columbus.af.mil)

Similarly, if you read but are not fully occupied with the book, you do not fully understand what you have just read, as the spotlight focuses on something else.

The attentional system of the brain

The brain is constantly bombarded with so much information from the outside world that it is surprising that not more people have deadly headaches due to the flood of information. Fortunately, the human attentional system of the brain ensures that you only pay attention to the things you really need to.

According to Daniel J. Levitin, a scientist and the author of “The Organized Mind”, the human attentional system is divided into 4 parts: central executive mode, mind-wandering mode, attentional filter and attentional switch.

The more time you spend reading, the longer it remains a part of your environment. Consequently, the attentional filter gradually blocks out the book. This, in turn, means that your focus will need to be kept entirely by the central executive mind. This takes a significant amount of effort.

Therefore, after a three-hour examination, you will feel exhausted; just like other parts of the body, your brain needs glucose to function. However, focusing on something makes the brain particularly stressful, causing you to feel tired.

How to absorb what you read

We feel mentally exhausted after concentrating on something for hours on end. (Photo Credit: Flickr)

Your brain is designed to minimize the effort, so it assigns the task of reading to the mind-wandering mode to minimize effort. The advantage of this is that you can still read with minimal effort while at the same time thinking about something that has nothing to do with it.

The downside, however, is that the mind-wandering mode is not particularly good at processing information that is not random. As a result, you end up reading on autopilot without really interpreting most of it.

How to absorb what you read

Whether it’s Facebook content, Bill Gates’ favorite book, or the latest critical business report, most of us enjoy reading or have to do quite a bit of it through the day. But in the rush to do everything in less time, you might be missing a crazily simple way to commit more content to memory:

Just go back and give yourself a little time to reflect on what you just read.

Now, when I say “reflect,” I don’t mean sit there pondering for an hour. I mean sitting just long enough to

  • Mentally identify the main points or concepts
  • Jot down some notes (you can’t write everything, so this forces your brain to choose what’s most important)
  • Consider the ramifications or implications of the content
  • Think about how the content connects to your personal preferences, personality, and experiences

Why it works.

As Allison Preston, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Texas at Austin, explains in this 2014 research study release,

We think replaying memories during rest makes those earlier memories stronger, not just impacting the original content, but impacting the memories to come. [. ] Nothing happens in isolation. When you are learning something new, you bring to mind all of the things you know that are related to that information. In doing so, you embed the new information into your existing knowledge.

With this in mind, when you give yourself a few minutes to rest and think about what you just ingested from the page, you’re allowing your brain to better connect the new information to what you’ve already done or understand. And because the brain is wired to respond to emotions quickly and efficiently, connecting them to memory formation and the interpretation of facts and rational thought, if you can allow yourself to really acknowledge and respond to what you feel during your reading reflections, you stand a better chance of the new memories being more powerful and easier to retrieve.

How to absorb what you read

There is no shortage of material that needs to be read in business, including marketing copy, business plans, contracts, legal documents, and, of course, business books. I love to read, but not all business reading is particularly entertaining or well written. And some of the most important stuff is dense, dry, and dreadful, no matter how much achieving success requires you read it.

So when my inbox is full of necessary reading that I know will put me to sleep, I have to make a special effort to power through it. First, I set aside time with no distractions. No phone, email, or TV to draw my focus. Then, I find a place with lots of natural light. Lastly, I turn on mellow music that I know well so I can get into its rhythmic groove. Before you know it, the stack is gone, and I feel better for having been productive.

Here are more ways to tackle that tough material, from my Inc. colleagues.

1. Skim it first.

There’s nothing worse than having to slog through writing that is dry, boring, or overly dense. When I encounter such articles, books, or other information, it takes all the willpower I can muster to read it and not push it aside and do something else instead. The one thing that helps me get through such material and actually learn something in the process is to skim it instead of trying to read it in detail. As I skim, I write down the major points in a notebook. After I’m done, I can then review the major points I’ve collected and have a pretty good idea of what I need to know. Peter Economy –The Management Guy

Want to read more from Peter? .

2. Mix it up a bit.

People absorb information largely on the basis of their learning style; my style changes with different tasks. If I have to assemble something, I’m kinesthetic; I just have to get my hands on it and do it. In many ways, I am visual, but in reading technical or boring jargon I’m mostly auditory. If I cannot access an audio version of the material, then I actually read the tough parts out loud. But there’s an added twist: As I read it, I have to put a visual to it as well. I process the information in two ways, so I guess I am a multitasking reader! How about you? Marla Tabaka –The Successful Soloist

Want to read more from Marla? .

3. Understand your learning style.

I discovered early in life that I am an auditory learner, which means I comprehend best when I hear content and new information. My job requires me to review thick business plans and corporate strategy documents. That’s where my smartphone and tablet come in. Both have built-in functionality that supports my learning style. I can use the built-in text-to-speech technology to read the content to me. As I listen to each section, I purposefully summarize in my head what I just learned so I am sure I fully comprehended the information conveyed. This functionality is also a great way to take advantage of the times it wouldn’t be as easy to read–walking through an airport or commuting in my car, for example. Eric Holtzclaw –Lean Forward

Want to read more from Eric? .

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How to absorb what you readHow many books, CD’s, Podcasts and seminars have you taken in over the years, and how many of them can you point to and say they increased the profit in your business – not just gained knowledge, but PROFIT – in your business?

There are too many people who read and read and read and never get anything out of it. One of the reasons why this is, is because learning doesn’t work that way.

You wouldn’t learn how to ride a bike JUST by reading a book on it. Even when we had to study something in school, we didn’t just read the history book once.

We took it chapter by chapter. We reflected on what it meant and discussed it in class. And when it came to a test, we applied our knowledge.

Whatever happened to that?

Do you want to change your mindset on the way you learn and make every information product you buy more valuable?

If so read it slowly.

1. Sleep on it.

Sleep has a huge role in what we retain and remember. It’s the time where our brain decides which information is valuable and deserves to be stored for the next day and what isn’t.

If you read something once and forget about it, your brain learns to filter it out. That means you can’t act on it and take advantage of it because you can’t recall it effectively.

If you read chapter by chapter though and make notes as you read the pages, there’s more of a chance that the information you take in will stick!

That’s also why it’s important to limit the amount of information you read at one time so you can keep yourself from being overloaded. The less information you try to take in, the less you will confuse your brain about what is important and retain more of it.

2. Learn and Do.

If you’re learning AND doing, you’ll gain more insight as you go, especially if you’re in an environment where you’ll get a lot of feedback from other people.

The more you allow yourself to DO, the more you’ll be able to adjust the quality of each small task. When you pinpoint what you’re doing wrong, you can give it special attention and fix it, just like a school student who is studying with a certain chapter.

Imagine reading an entire book and trying to act on all of it at once! A real pain, right? It’s much tougher to dig out what your weak areas are and improve on them if you are trying to change various skills sets and not just one or two at once.

3. The power of suspense.How to absorb what you read

We read books in one or two big chunks because we want to learn as much as possible and as quickly as possible.

It’s too tempting. It’s natural. We do it without even thinking.

And it’s too tempting to think we can learn a new skill by reading a book. But chances are, that new skill will take a long time to master. What’s more likely is that we will read the book very quickly, drain all the “suspense” out of it, and then get hungry for a new solution and new information without even giving the newly learned information a chance to be used.

Now you’re a great reader but not a great businessperson.

Take things slowly.

Develop your skills.

Sleep on what you learn.

That’s the way to get lasting results out of everything that you read.

An action step for you that I learned just recently is to read 10 pages only every day and make it part of your daily routine.

If you tend to read in the morning then great you can take action immediately with what you have read that morning.

However if you are a night reader then you have the opportunity to be able to sleep on the new information and absorb ready to action first thing in the morning.

Either way make time for 10 pages and watch how your growth and action increase…

If you found anything beneficial and useful for yourself in this post then others will too, so be sure to like, share and comment below. It’s great to share and I am thrilled you found today’s post ‘How To Prove Them Wrong’ a benefit to you.

How to absorb what you read

How many books, recordings, and seminars have you taken over the years, and how many of them can you point to as increased sources of profit – not just knowledge, but PROFIT – in your business?

There are too may people who read and read and read and never get anything out of it. One of the reasons why this is, is because learning doesn’t work that way.

You wouldn’t learn how to ride a bike JUST by reading a book on it. Even when we had to study something in school, we didn’t just read the history book once. It’s about comprehension strategies. Training modules available needs to be understood well in order to apply it.

We took it chapter by chapter. We reflected on what it meant and discussed it with others. And when it came time for a test, we applied and demonstrated our knowledge.

Whatever happened to that?

Do you want to change the way you learn and make every information product you buy more valuable? Read it slowly.

1. You’ll be able to sleep on it.

Sleep has a huge role in memory. It’s the time period where our brain decides which information is valuable and deserves to be stored for the next day.

If you read something once and forget about it, your brain learns to filter it out. That means you can’t act on it and take advantage of it.

If you read it chapter by chapter though, there’s more of a chance that the information inside will stick!

That’s also why it’s important to limit the amount of information you get and keep yourself from being overloaded. The less information you try to take in, the less you will confuse your brain about what is important.

2. Little Accidents

If you’re learning AND doing, you’ll gain more insight as you go, especially if you’re in an environment where you’ll get a lot of feedback from other people.

The more you allow yourself to DO, the more you’ll be able to adjust the quality of each small task. When you pinpoint what you’re doing wrong, you can give it special attention and fix it, just like a school student who is studying with a certain chapter. Conversely, imagine reading an entire book and trying to act on all of it at once! A real pain, right? It’s much tougher to dig out what your weak areas are and improve on them.

3. The power of suspense.

We read books in one or two big chunks because we always want to know what’s going to happen next. It’s too tempting to devour information in the same way. It’s natual. We do it without even thinking.

And it’s too tempting to think we can learn a new skill by reading a book. But chances are, that new skill will take a long time to implement. What’s more likely is that we will read the book very quickly, drain all the “suspense” out of it, and then get hungry for a new solution.

Now you’re a voracious reader and not a voracious businessperson. Bad.

Take things slowly.

Develop your skills.

Sleep on what you learn.

That’s the way to get lasting results out of everything that you read.

How to absorb what you read

Have you ever found yourself in a zoned out state while attempting to study? Perhaps you’ve breezed through a few pages in textbook with no recollection of the material you just read. This is pretty common even for the most experienced student. Here are a few proven study tips you can use to retain information.

  1. Teach someone else. We discussed this in a previous blog, but it’s worth repeating. If you can’t easily explain a concept to someone else, you may not understand it well enough. Studies cite that the average person retains 90% of what they learn when they teach the concept or immediately put it into practice. When teaching or applying a concept, you’ll quickly identify your areas of weakness. Revisit the material until you feel confident in your ability to explain it to someone else.
  2. Know when you’re most alert and attentive. Your mind is better focused during certain times of the day. This is different for every person. This video explains a little about night owls vs. early risers. Understanding when you’re most alert will help you determine your optimal study times.
  3. Focus on one topic at a time. Some topics require an extreme amount of focus to fully understand. Jumping from subject to subject will dilute your efforts and consequently limit your ability to retain the information. Avoid this habit at all cost.
  4. Pause. It’s difficult to fight the impulse of rushing through the material, but the outcome of this habit is limited retention. Rather than reading your study materials from beginning to end, absorb it in small chunks, pause to reflect and review the concepts, then move on.
  5. Write it down. Writing uses a different part of the brain than reading. This means that when you take the time to write down a concept during or after reviewing the material, you’ll cover the concept a second time. Visual learners will find this extremely helpful. Auditory learners should consider reading the material aloud as well.
  6. Make it interesting. Most people struggle with focusing on uninteresting topics. To combat this, try to make the topic personal. One way to personalize a topic is to focus on how it will be applied in your career.

We’d love to hear any study tips you use to help you retain information. Leave us a comment on Facebook and we’ll add it to this blog for other students to use! #ATCpride

How to absorb what you read

Despite tele­vi­sion, cell phones, and Twit­ter, tra­di­tion­al read­ing is still an impor­tant skill. Whether it is school text­books, mag­a­zines, or reg­u­lar books, peo­ple still read, though not as much as they used to. One rea­son that many peo­ple don’t read much is that they don’t read well. For them, it is slow, hard work and they don’t remem­ber as much as they should. Stu­dents, for example,may have to read some­thing sev­er­al times before they under­stand and remem­ber what they read.

Why? You would think that schools teach kids how to read well. Schools do try. I work with mid­dle-school teach­ers and they tell me that many stu­dents are 2–3 years behind grade lev­el in read­ing pro­fi­cien­cy. No doubt, tele­vi­sion, cell phones, and the Web are major con­trib­u­tors to this prob­lem, which will appar­ent­ly get worse if we don’t empha­size and improve read­ing instruction.

Some of the blame can be placed on the fads in read­ing teach­ing, such as phon­ics and “whole lan­guage,” which some­times are pro­mot­ed by zealots who don’t respect the need for both approach­es. Much of the blame for poor read­ing skills can be laid at the feet of par­ents who set poor exam­ples and, of course, on the young­sters who are too lazy to learn how to read well.

For all those who missed out on good read­ing skills, it is not too late. I sum­ma­rize below what I think it takes to read with good speed and comprehension.

  1. Read with a purpose.
  2. Skim first.
  3. Get the read­ing mechan­ics right.
  4. Be judi­cious in high­light­ing and note taking.
  5. Think in pictures.
  6. Rehearse as you go along.
  7. Stay with­in your atten­tion span and work to increase that span.
  8. Rehearse again soon.

1) Know Your Purpose

Every­one should have a pur­pose for their read­ing and think about how that pur­pose is being ful­filled dur­ing the actu­al read­ing. The advan­tage for remem­ber­ing is that check­ing con­tin­u­ous­ly for how the pur­pose is being ful­filled helps the read­er to stay on task, to focus on the more rel­e­vant parts of the text, and to rehearse con­tin­u­ous­ly as one reads. This also saves time and effort because rel­e­vant items are most attended.

Iden­ti­fy­ing the pur­pose should be easy if you freely choose what to read. Just ask your­self, “Why am I read­ing this?” If it is to be enter­tained or pass the time, then there is not much prob­lem. But myr­i­ad oth­er rea­sons could apply, such as:

  • to under­stand a cer­tain group of peo­ple, such as Mus­lims, Jews, Hin­dus, etc.
  • to crys­tal­lize your polit­i­cal posi­tion, such as why a giv­en gov­ern­ment pol­i­cy should be opposed.
  • to devel­op an informed plan or proposal.
  • to sat­is­fy a require­ment of an aca­d­e­m­ic course or oth­er assigned reading.

Many of us have read­ings assigned to us, as in a school envi­ron­ment. Or the boss may hand us a man­u­al and say “Here. We need you to read this.” Whether the order comes from a teacher or boss, we need to ask, “What do you want me to learn from this?” In the absence of such guid­ance, you should still for­mu­late your best guess about what you should learn and remem­ber from the reading.

2) Skim First

Some read­ing tasks require no more than skim­ming. Prop­er skim­ming includes putting an empha­sis on the head­ings, pic­tures, graphs, tables, and key para­graphs (which are usu­al­ly at the begin­ning and the end). Depend­ing on the pur­pose, you should slow down and read care­ful­ly only the parts that con­tribute to ful­fill­ing the read­ing purpose.

Even mate­r­i­al that has to be stud­ied care­ful­ly should be skimmed first. The ben­e­fits of skim­ming first are that the skim­ming: 1) primes the mem­o­ry, mak­ing it eas­i­er to remem­ber when you read it the sec­ond time, 2) ori­ents the think­ing, help­ing you to know where the impor­tant con­tent is in the doc­u­ment, 3) cre­ates an over­all sense and gestalt for the doc­u­ment, which in turn makes it eas­i­er to remem­ber cer­tain particulars.

Brows­ing on the Inter­net encour­ages peo­ple to skim read. The way con­tent is han­dled on the Web is even caus­ing writ­ers to make wider use of Web devices, such as num­bered or bul­let­ed lists, side­bars, graph­ics, text box­es and side­bars. But the bad news is that the Web style makes it even hard­er to learn how to read in-depth; that is, the Web teach­es us to skim, cre­at­ing bad read­ing habits for in-depth reading.

3) Get the Mechan­ics Right

For in-depth read­ing, eyes need to move in a dis­ci­plined way. Skim­ming actu­al­ly trains eyes to move with­out dis­ci­pline. When you need to read care­ful­ly and remem­ber the essence of large blocks of text, the eyes must snap from one fix­a­tion point to the next in left- to right-sequence. More­over, the fix­a­tions should not be one indi­vid­ual let­ters or even sin­gle words, but rather on sev­er­al words per fix­a­tion. There are read­ing-improve­ment machines that train the eyes to fix­ate prop­er­ly, but few schools use them. I know from per­son­al expe­ri­ence with such machines that they can increase read­ing speed marked­ly with­out a cost in low­er com­pre­hen­sion. Poor read­ers who stum­ble along from word to word actu­al­ly tend to have low­er com­pre­hen­sion because their mind is pre­oc­cu­pied with rec­og­niz­ing the let­ters and their arrange­ment in each word.That is a main rea­son they can’t remem­ber what they read. Count­less times I have heard col­lege stu­dents say, “I read that chap­ter three times, and I still can’t answer your ques­tions.” When I ask thought-pro­vok­ing ques­tions about the mate­r­i­al, they often can’t answer the ques­tions because they can’t remem­ber the mean­ing of what they read. Even with straight­for­ward sim­ple mem­o­riza­tion ques­tions, they often can’t remem­ber, because their focus on the words them­selves kept them from asso­ci­at­ing what their eyes saw with their own pre-exist­ing knowl­edge and thus facil­i­tat­ing remem­ber­ing. In short, to remem­ber what you read, you have to think about what the words mean.

I am not argu­ing against phon­ics, which in my view is vital for the ini­tial learn­ing of how to read. But phon­ics is just the first step in good read­ing prac­tice. At some point, the read­er needs to rec­og­nize whole words as com­plete units and then expand that capa­bil­i­ty to clus­ters of sev­er­al words.

Among the key tac­tics for good mechan­ics of read­ing, I list the following:

  • Make eye con­tact with all the text not being delib­er­ate­ly skimmed
  • See mul­ti­ple words in each eye fixation
  • Strive to expand the width of each eye fix­a­tion (on an 8.5″ width, strive for three fix­a­tions or even­tu­al­ly two per line). This skill has to be devel­oped in stages. First, learn how do read at five or six fix­a­tions per line. Then work on four per line. Then three.
  • Snap eyes from one fix­a­tion point to anoth­er (hor­i­zon­tal snaps on long lines, ver­ti­cal snap if whole line in a col­umn can be seen with one fixation).

Learn­ing how to do this takes prac­tice. If you can’t do it on your own, con­sid­er for­mal train­ing from a read­ing center.

Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania.

If you’re an adult with ADHD, you’ve probably struggled with remembering what you’ve read. Reading tasks may feel like they take forever, especially if you are finding that you have to read and re-read (and re-read again) in order to process the information accurately.

Does that mean you’re doomed to fail in school or have difficulties in the workplace? Probably not. From learning how to focus when you’re reading to how to remember and retain what you’ve read, there are several tried-and-true strategies to help overcome reading problems. These may benefit people without ADHD, too.

Reading Issues for Adults With ADHD

Why is it so tough for people with ADHD to remember what they've read? While research on reading issues for adults with ADHD is limited, there are several issues that could be at play.

It is not unusual to become derailed by internal thoughts or external distractions, particularly when reading something uninteresting or downright boring. You may frequently find that you are losing your place or skipping words in longer passages because you are visually distracted by all the words on the page.

You may have trouble identifying and remembering the main points of what you've just read. You may simply zone out and become sleepy while reading.

How to Remember What You Read

To help yourself to stay focused and attentive so that you can remember what you've read, try one or more of these strategies. Experiment to see what helps you.

  1. Read aloud instead of silently. This may take longer, but it will help you to focus on each word.
  2. Walk or pace around while you read. This strategy may help you avoid zoning out or focusing on internal distractions instead of the words on the page.
  3. Take brief breaks for movement.
  4. Use audiobooks or have someone read to you. This approach is especially helpful for people who learn through listening or who are easily overwhelmed when faced with a page full of text.
  5. Opt for a hard copy. Researchers have discovered that comprehension is better when reading a physical book versus an e-book.
  6. Talk about what you have just read. Discuss it with a friend, or just talk aloud to yourself.
  7. Use highlighter pens to underscore main points. Not only will this keep you focused, but it will also help you to recall the main points.
  8. Take notes while reading, then go back and summarize the main points.
  9. Use a bookmark or ruler to slide down the page as you read each line, so you don’t lose your place.
  10. Divide the material into smaller, more manageable chunks. Then take a break and reward yourself after each section.
  11. Adapt your environment. Figure out what works best for you: a quiet reading area or one with some background noise.
  12. Eliminate distractions. Is your phone on silent? Is the door closed? Are you hungry? Are you too cold or too hot? Think about and eliminate any distractions that might interfere with your reading.
  13. Read at the right time. If you’re feeling tired or fatigued, for example, it will be that much harder to focus and absorb what you read.
  14. Keep a pad of papernearby. If you get distracted by internal thoughts, jot down the thought in order to remember it and get back to it at a later time. Once you have jotted the thought down, set it aside for later.
  15. Make the content personal. Think about how it relates to your own likes and dislikes and personal experiences.
  16. Read it twice. Reading something a second time will not only allow you to better understand what you’ve read but also help you to pick up any information you missed the first time around.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s a good technique for teaching a child with ADHD how to read?

In addition to treating ADHD, which has been found to help reading skills, strategies may include reading together, minimizing outside distractions, giving children books about topics they enjoy, and teaching techniques like underlining and highlighting.

How can I read a book faster if I have ADHD?

The speed at which you read a book can differ for many reasons, including how interested you are in the book that you're reading. Strategies like using a bookmark or ruler to keep your place can help you focus on each line of text and get through the book with less distraction.

How is reading different for adults with ADHD than from children with ADHD?

Reading is a struggle for adults and children with ADHD alike. Many children with ADHD have difficulty with reading comprehension, while both adults and kids with ADHD tend to lose interest, miss details and connections, lose track of where they are on the page, and become easily distracted.

Having a co-occurring reading disability such as dyslexia, which can make it difficult to learn to read, spell, decode, and recognize words, is also common for both adults and children with ADHD.

How to absorb what you read

We all experience the world in unique ways, and with that comes variation in the ways we learn best. Understanding these different types of learning styles can drastically impact the way teachers handle their students, set up group projects and adapt individual learning. Without understanding and acknowledging these different ways of learning, teachers might end up with a handful of students lagging behind their classmates—in part because their unique learning style hasn’t been activated.

Part of your responsibility as an educator is to adjust your lessons to the unique group of students you are working with at any given time. The best teachers can cater to each student’s strengths, ensuring they are truly grasping the information.

So how do you meet the needs of different types of learners in your class? Join us as we outline the four types of learning styles and how teachers can practically apply this information in their classrooms.

Ways of learning: A closer look at 4 learning styles

Learning styles and preferences take on a variety of forms—and not all people fit neatly into one category. But generally speaking, these are the most common types of learners:

1. Visual learners

How to recognize visual learners in your class: Someone with a preference for visual learning is partial to seeing and observing things, including pictures, diagrams, written directions and more. This is also referred to as the “spatial” learning style. Students who learn through sight understand information better when it’s presented in a visual way. These are your doodling students, your list makers and your students who take notes.

How to cater to visual learners: The whiteboard or smartboard is your best friend when teaching these types of learners. Give students opportunities to draw pictures and diagrams on the board, or ask students to doodle examples based on the topic they’re learning. Teachers catering to visual learners should regularly make handouts and use presentations. Visual learners may also need more time to process material, as they observe the visual cues before them. So be sure to give students a little time and space to absorb the information.

2. Auditory learners

How to recognize auditory learners in your class: Auditory learners tend to learn better when the subject matter is reinforced by sound. These students would much rather listen to a lecture than read written notes, and they often use their own voices to reinforce new concepts and ideas. These types of learners prefer reading out loud to themselves. They aren’t afraid to speak up in class and are great at verbally explaining things. Additionally, they may be slower at reading and may often repeat things a teacher tells them.

How to cater to auditory learners: Since these students generally find it hard to stay quiet for long periods of time, get your auditory learners involved in the lecture by asking them to repeat new concepts back to you. Ask questions and let them answer. Invoke group discussions so your auditory and verbal processors can properly take in and understand the information they’re being presented with. Watching videos and using music or audiotapes are also helpful ways of learning for this group.

3. Kinesthetic learners

How to recognize kinesthetic learners in your class: Kinesthetic learners, sometimes called tactile learners, learn through experiencing or doing things. They like to get involved by acting out events or using their hands to touch and handle in order to understand concepts. These types of learners might struggle to sit still and often excel at sports or like to dance. They may need to take more frequent breaks when studying.

How to cater to kinesthetic learners: The best way teachers can help these students learn is by getting them moving. Instruct students to act out a certain scene from a book or a lesson you’re teaching. Also try encouraging these students by incorporating movement into lessons: pacing to help memorize, learning games that involve moving around the classroom or having students write on the whiteboard as part of an activity.

Once kinesthetic learners can physically sense what they’re studying, abstract ideas and difficult concepts become easier to understand.

4. Reading/writing learners

How to recognize reading/writing learners in your class: According to the VARK Modalities theory developed by Fleming and Mills in 1992, reading/writing learners prefer to learn through written words. While there is some overlap with visual learning, these types of learners are drawn to expression through writing, reading articles or books, writing in diaries, looking up words in the dictionary and searching the internet for just about everything.

How to cater to reading/writing learners: Of the four learning styles, this is probably the easiest to cater to since much of the traditional educational system tends to center on writing essays, doing research and reading books. Be mindful about allowing plenty of time for these students to absorb information through the written word, and give them opportunities to get their ideas out on paper as well.

Embrace all types of learning

Understanding these different learning styles doesn’t end in the classroom. By equipping students with tools in their early years, teachers are empowering them for their futures. Pinpointing how a child learns best can dramatically affect their ability to connect with the topics you’re teaching, as well as how they participate with the rest of the class.

Now that you have some tactics in your back pocket to accommodate different ways of learning, you may be curious about classroom management strategies. Learn more in our article, “Proven Classroom Management Tips for Preschool Teachers.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in 2018. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2020.