The first of which was in sixth grade. My teacher, Mr. Pulliam, would make us write down every word we couldn’t define and then look it up. And if ever we said, “But I know all the words in this book.” He would open it up to a random page and pick a word that we would have to define to the class. After a long minute of sputtering, “Well…um…it’s like…um…you know,” only then would he have pity and let us look it up in the dictionary.
Needless to say, that only happened to me once. Then I learned exactly what he meant and what he was trying to teach us. Too often, we see words in context and think we know what they mean. Our minds skip over them because we’re involved in the story. Mr. Pulliam taught us to slow down and examine the words, almost more than the story.
The second was in my college literature class last summer. The teacher’s name was Jason Kirker, but we just called him Jason. He encouraged us to write in our books. The books we read for that class are the first and only books I’ve ever written in (apart from textbooks). Those faint pencil marks felt like sacrilege. Every letter I wrote made me cringe inside.
However, writing down my thoughts as I read made discussing the books in class so much easier, because I’d already thought about it. I had to put what I was thinking into my own words in order to write it in the margins. Too often, we read without thinking. We absorb what we’re reading, but don’t truly think about it. I can’t tell you how many books that I know I’ve read, but can’t remember anything about. So Jason taught us to slow down and think about what we were reading.
Since then, I’ve stopped writing in books (I couldn’t overcome the cringe factor). But I do put tab markers at interesting places that make me think. I also write word definitions on post-it notes and stick them on the pages too. Depending on the book, some of them will have one or two tabs and post-its while others seem to have one on every page. Then after I’ve finished, I’ll read back through those sections, really think about them, and write them down.
Do you do anything different while you read? How do you remember interesting passages?