George Lucas Educational Foundation

How to Finish What You're Reading

How to Finish What You're Reading

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It's the time of the year where there are way too many assignments, tests, projects, exams, reports, and presentations due all at the same time. I found myself the other day giving a few survival tips for my students (project management tips like meeting deadlines, planning etc). Many students will need to catch up on some of their reading between assignments and studying for exams. 

Here are a few tips to help finish reading a text, whether it's an article, a textbook chapter, a short story or even a novel.

  • Take a break
  • Highlight important parts to help your understanding
  • Read a little bit every night before bed
  • Read while commuting by bus
  • Make notes on the margins to remind you of ideas/concepts
  • Draw diagram to explain concepts, link ideas, categorize timelines
  • Sketch out a family tree if you're reading a book with many characters
  • Skim through the text before starting to read
  • Research the topic
  • Summarize or paraphrase paragraph/page
  • Talk about it with a friend, classmate, or teacher
  • Read the ending, and then go back and read the rest
  • Reading by deadline? Divide the number of pages by the number of days you have to read the book, follow that number every day for completion

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT's picture
Laura Bradley, MA, NBCT
Middle school English/Digital Design/Broadcast Media teacher

Great list, Rusul! When I teach struggling readers, I give them a calendar of due dates to divide up the book, and then give each student sticky notes and directions for a due date and page number for each sticky note.

I remember dividing up pages to read by deadlines when I was in college -- I couldn't believe how much I had to digest every week! These are great tips not just for our students while they are in school, but also for general time management in their adult lives.

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

I really don't have this problem teaching third graders because most of the readings happen in school. I always wished that my teachers in high school collaborated more often so I didn't have a ton of reading from all classes at the same time. I guess in college you're thrown to the wolves and this list will definitely help.

I had one class in graduate school on Native American Literature and had to read a novel a week. Yes, I novel a week. That ain't happening with a full time job, a wife and two little kids at home. I faked most of those discussion and focused on the content that I needed for my papers. I went back after the class was over and read a few of the books I skimmed.

Rusul Alrubail's picture
Rusul Alrubail
Edutopia Community Facilitator/ Student Voice & Literacy at The Writing Project

Laura, that's such a great idea to use that strategy with struggling students. I think it would make the task of finishing a novel less overwhelming and more manageable for them.

Rusul Alrubail's picture
Rusul Alrubail
Edutopia Community Facilitator/ Student Voice & Literacy at The Writing Project

Gaetan, you're absolutely right my list is aimed for high school and college students. I start often hearing about the difficulty of finishing a novel from high school students. In most cases that is usually due to the lack of motivation in the student to complete the novel. In that case there are other factors in learning that should be focused on, like whether or not the student has a choice in novel selection, difficulty level etc. But at the end of the day a student needs to complete the assigned novel, and here is where these tips can be practiced to ease them through the process.

Looking back at my grad school days, to be honest, I don't know *how* I survived. Sometimes I needed to finish 4 novels in one week...I would consider myself so lucky if I already read the novel in my undergrad. Boy oh boy...funny with that experience, I still enjoy reading (when I get a free moment that is :)).

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

Reading four novels a week is a very interesting discussion topic on "Hard" vs. "Complex". What's the purpose of reading four novels a week other than reading four novels a week. Did you really have time to absorb and think deeply about those four novels? Were you a full time graduate student?

I would have failed. :)

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