Dos and Don’ts for Reading Days
How many times have you said, “I’ll get this done during Reading Days?” I know I have said it at least ten times this semester. Reading Days are a great time to get prepared for your final exams and papers, but those two days go by very quickly. In this post, I’ll share some dos and don’ts for Reading Days success.
DO create an action plan. As soon as you can, look at all of your syllabi to get a better understanding of what exactly you have to do for your final assessment for each class. Do you have a final paper? How long is it? What kind of outside research does this paper require? Do you have to do a presentation about your paper in class? Do you have a final exam? Is it cumulative? Is there a study guide? Create fake deadlines for yourself before the actual deadline by bringing your paper or study plan to the Weingarten Center or by taking your paper to the Marks Family Writing Center. Making an appointment will create an accountability measure for yourself.
DON’T start the day before. The worst time to start looking at exam material is a few hours before you take the test. If you create a plan and familiarize yourself with your professor’s expectations for the final, then you will know how much time you must devote to studying for that particular exam. Similarly, starting your paper the day before the deadline won’t yield the best result. You may need to get books from the library or interview someone to complete your assignment, so advanced planning is critical when completing these papers.
Do prioritize. The end of the year comes with lots of fun activities that may get in the way of your exam and paper preparation. You are encouraged to balance work and fun, and the best way to do this is by putting all of your activities, fun or not, onto a calendar. We have April-May calendars in the Weingarten Center that are perfect for this activity. Once you see when everything will be taking place, you can make some choices. Perhaps choose one fun activity to do during the weekend before finals, and sandwich it between study/work sessions for your exams and papers.
Don’t try to cram. Depending on how much time you have to study before your exam, you will have to make some choices about what you study. If you are short on time, focus on reinforcing the material that you know well and reviewing the topics that you can easily learn, rather than getting held up on the most complicated parts of your coursework. This strategy is the best way to get through as much as possible in a short amount of time.
For more tips on making the most of your Reading Days, visit us at the Weingarten Center! We’ll be holding two “Study Hacks for Reading Days” workshops on 4/23 and 4/24. Additionally, we are open for 50-minute appointments or shorter walk-ins if you would like to consult with a learning instructor individually.
Best of luck on your final exams and papers!
By Staff Writer: Cassie Lo, Learning Instructor and Fellow
Resolutions for a Fresh Start
“And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
And gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie waught
For auld lang syne.”
~ Robert Burns
Have you ever wondered why, when the ball drops at midnight, nobody seems to know all the words to the song, other than the pressing question of whether or not the auld acquaintance should be forgot, and that bit about the auld lang syne? Well, now you know. Above is the 5th verse (yes, really, there are five verses) in all of its Scots glory, which now allows you to feel better about New Year’s Eve, and which now allows me to type the phrase “right gude-willie waught” one more time and drive spell check into wiggly red underscore frenzy.
Go ahead: sing the 5th verse. You know the melody. Give it spin. I’ll wait here.
Anyway, now that we got the melody looping in your head for the rest of the day, let’s talk Resolutions.
The problem with most resolutions, especially those of the improving-my-academic-performance variety, is that our planning can be overly ambitious. It’s like resolving to whip yourself into shape by adopting a plan where you work out three hours a day, seven days a week and, falling short of the lofty goal, abandon the initial resolution for yet another shameful period of slothful anti-health. It’s supposed to be a resolution, not a guise for self-punishment.
If you’re looking to post better grades and/or learn more, start with small, simple strategies. Let’s get back to basics:
- Review your lecture notes after class within 24 hours. This needn’t require a massive amount of time; 20 to 30 minutes max. Couldn’t get to the notes in 24 hours? Don’t abandon the resolution, adjust the plan and get to them in 48.
- Go to class. Even if you think you don’t get anything out of lecture because A) I hate the professor B) The lecture makes no sense and I just get more confused C) Life is so much better in bed – lecture is still three hours a week with the course material. At the very least, if you’re not replacing missed class time with study time, you’re falling further behind.
- Read more, especially if it seems like you don’t read at all. I’m not saying read everything. Remember the whip yourself into shape thing earlier? Same principle. Start with Power Point slides, or chapter summaries. And don’t just read for the sake of reading, think about what you’re reading.
- Come to Weingarten. Our friendly learning instructors know their way around all kinds of academics-related resolutions. At least one of us knows what a right gude-willie waught is.
Now sing the fifth verse of Auld Lang Syne one more time.
– Pete Kimchuk, Senior Learning Specialist
Bigger Pictures: So Much to Read, So Little Time
“The flood of print has turned reading into a process of gulping rather than savoring.”
~ Raymond Chandler
Raymond Chandler, the author who gave us The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye and Farewell, My Lovely, as well as generously providing the epigram for today’s blog post, died way back in 1959. He had good reason to bemoan the “flood of print”. During his career paperbacks became cheaper and easier to produce, to say nothing of large circulation magazines and daily newspapers, many of which published multiple daily editions. So while Old Ray didn’t live long enough to witness the mad proliferation of text brought to us courtesy of the world wide web, there was certainly a greater availability of potential reading material.
In the land of academic reading the idea that a student will savor what’s been assigned seems beside the point. When confronted with hundreds of pages of required reading, the first urge is just to power through, roll the eyeballs over line after line of words, words, words until this nightmare is over. Because that’s what we’re supposed to do, right? Complete the assignment, finish the book, read the PDFs. Move on.
Savoring, in Chandler’s parlance, here is akin to processing, to thinking deeply, which is after all what we’re supposed to be doing anyway. I’m not saying that we can do that with every assigned page of text, but I am saying that we should at least pick out chunks that resonate with us as readers and we should reread these bits, and think about what these passages mean not just in the context of the class material, but beyond.
On the other side we should acknowledge the dilemma of those tasked with building the reading list and the syllabus. This requires more than anything else to strike a balance between breadth and depth. Deciding what should be skimmed and what to read deeply is as much art as science, even for those who assign the work.
This is an old tension, maybe even an ancient one. Did the sages of Sumer worry that the unprecedented availability of cuneiform tablets made it more difficult to appreciate what had been pressed into the soft clay with a stylus? Sure. Let’s go with that.
Staff Writer: Pete Kimchuk