teacher, I learned to prefer having my students mark up
their books with pencil marks than to copy something and
call it a book report. By giving students the
choice of writing a 500 word report or underlining
highlighting) words they don't know, I usually was
able to get students to do it my way. And my way did
have its built-in teacher advantages. I could easily
than five underlined or highlighted words per page
may indicate it's too difficult. Certainly
three underlined (or highlighted) words per line (as
has happened!) indicates the book might as well be
written in Sanskrit.
b. No underlined
(or highlighted) words or only one every five or six
pages usually indicates the book is too easy.
In fact, no underlined (or highlighted words usually
meant that the student hadn't read the book.
Of course, there will always be those who think they
are smarter than the teacher. They will swear
up and down that they read all 1200 pages of
Tolstoi's War and Peace, but didn't underline or
highlight any words because they knew all of them.
A quick check of:
this word mean?
the story. They were bluffing.
I tell my students
that they must remember the agreement. They are to
read the book and underline in pencil or highlight all
the words they can't pronounce and all words whose
meaning they are not sure of even though they may be
able to pronounce them. If they are not willing to
do the underlining (or highlighting) then they must do
the writing of the 500 word book report.
But the real reason for having my students underline
highlight) words is to help them discover that
they can learn words by themselves--if, they alert their
computer brains, that there is something that needs to
That's Ze very act of
underlining or highlighting is a cue to the computer
brain that there is a problem to solve. Without
the cueing, the pattern of letters skipped over will no
more be retained by the computer brain than the zvcxtwmtqs of a foreign language or the position of the
telephone poles and fire hydrants you pass by every day
on the way to work.
When I give my students the instructions about
underlining or highlighting I also give them the reason.
I don't want to leave the impression that I'm asking
them to underline or highlight because I have stock in a
pencil or a highlighter company. I tell them that
when they are reading they are bound to come across
words they can't pronounce or whose meaning is beyond
them. They can't just stop reading because the
word is lough. They must go on.
Unfortunately, the student doesn't just go on. The
student SKIPS the word. Skipping is
something we do when it isn't important. Skipping
gives the computer brain the incorrect message.
But underlining (or highlighting) doesn't.
highlighting) CUES the computer brain
that this is a problem for it to solve.
cue is repeated frequently enough, one of two things is
liable to happen. The most common is that the
computer brain will solve the problem and all of a
sudden you just know what the word is and what the word
means. This is how we learned all our basic
vocabulary as infants and small children. The
computer brain solved problems for us.
The other thing that happens after a specific word is
underlined or ;highlighted time after time after time,
is that even though the computer may not have solved the
problem it is now triggering you into action. It
will try to help you learn by making you mad enough to
ask, "Hey Ma, Hey Jack, Hey Mr. Smith, Hey anybody, what
lough mean. Does it rhyme with tough,
bough, dough, or through?"
know that the constant encountering of the same word can
be infuriating, because that's what happened to me when
I was reading Trinity by Leon Uris. After
about the seventh time, I encountered that #%&*@*^!
that I couldn't pronounce or even puzzle out the meaning
from the context (there never was any), I was so
furious, I actually used the dictionary. Because I
was so angry I learned the
is the Irish spelling of lake and is pronounced the same
as in Scotland where they spell it loch but say
something that sounds to me like "lock."
Good readers, like you and I, mentally underline words
which we don't know as we read. And because we
read a great deal, our vocabularies are large.
What the readers who aren't as good as you and I can do
to develop the MINDSET for learning is to get into the
habit of using a pencil to underline or highlight words
they don't know.
There are two main reasons for underlining or
To alert the
computer brain that the word is a word that you need
To alert the
computer brain that the particular passage is
meaningful to you and you want to remember it.
highlighting is an active process and it helps to make
reading an active rather than passive process.
We urge you to adopt
this method, and we urge the researchers at the
universities to test out this theory that underlining or
highlighting can be a cue to the computer brain.
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