I am in the unusual position of being at a college designed to teach me how to do well academically in spite of the significant challenges to learning I face.
I have struggled at school all my life and it’s still tough going, but some of the systems I have learned have created order out of my mental swirl.
I’m going to share my close-reading process, which is influenced both by tools I have learned and what my brain responds to well.
Learning is mostly about the before and after
Reading and understanding is pretty important. But making the content relevant to you is the hard bit. Your brain is smarter than you are. You don’t remember things just because you can make sense out of them. Memories are encoded when they are meaningful to you. What does that mean in practical terms? Meaning is assigned through feelings–pleasure, pain and emotions–and through novelty. So… sense, meaning (feelings, novelty). Starting with meaning is important, because your brain is making sense of one thousand things a minute, things of which you aren’t even consciously aware. It is constantly busy making sense of the world around you. Your braining is inured to this input. Meaning on the other hand is more elusive. Think back to dreadful wadings through dry textbooks or a peculiarly droning and somnolent lecture. If you can get a text to mean something to you, you are already winning. How to go about this?
If something in the text reminds you of something else, write it down! If you have an emotional reaction to the text, write it down! If your only reaction to it is “ew,” write it down!!! Taking your impressions of the text seriously is a virtuous circle of encouragement and learning. Equally, take note when something is new to you and explore it. Feelings & novelty!
Split readings into manageable chunks before you start and mark them out so you don’t forget. For each chunk, ask a question of it before you begin to read it, something important you think it might tell you.