36How To Use Your Textbook

by Danny K. Howard, EAP Associate Director

When students read their textbooks, they face three big problems:
 Problem #1: They don’t understand some vocabulary in the reading
 Problem #2: They can’t catch the main idea of the paragraph
 Problem #3: They have more questions about what they are reading

Almost every textbook has large white spaces on the side margins. 

Why do you think they are there? Well, the reason is the textbook writers want you to use this space effectively. However, sometimes I look at students’ books and I don’t see anything written in them. Well, good students make use of this white space in their textbooks, and in this tip I will show you how you can do it too.

The Supreme Court's decision to have new elections was greeted with cheers from supporters of presidential candidate Viktor Yuschenko, who was declared the loser in the November 21 election. Calling the Supreme Court judges "real heroes," Yuschenko said, "Freedom and truth are returning to Ukraine following today’s decision." The judges met for five days before they made their final decision.
Since Ukraine's election on November 21, tens of thousands of people have flooded the streets of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. The crowds braved freezing temperatures to protest election results. Many wore orange to show support for Yuschenko. 

What to do

When you read your reading textbook at NIC or abroad you should...

  • Record the main idea in your own words
  • Write down new vocabulary
  • Write down further questions and comments for class

First, record the main idea or what you understood in your own words.
In college you will read a lot. It’s hard to remember everything that you read. Sometimes articles are very difficult and have important information that you should remember for tests, quizzes, and classroom discussion. Therefore, after you read a paragraph, quickly write a sentence or a few words to help you understand what you read. This will be very helpful when you study the chapter again later. And it is really helpful when you discuss it in class!

Write down new vocabulary
If you see vocabulary that is new and important, you can write down a quick meaning in English on the side. Of course, do this after you have read the article. In this way, you are keeping the new word very close to the part where you found it. Since teachers at NIC often test students on vocabulary, it is a good idea to do this! 

Finally, write down further questions or comments that you may have.
Sometimes you read something and you have even more questions that you want to ask the teacher. BUT when you go to class, you forget what you wanted to ask! If you write the question close to the paragraph that made you think of it, it is better. Then in class you can be more active by asking the question when you come to it in your reading.

At other times you may want to share some information with your teacher and classmates about something that you have read. Again, writing your question very close to the spot where you thought of it is a good idea. It also helps you to participate more in class!

Well, how does this work? Let’s look at an example below to see how you can use your textbook more wisely.

Your writing

Court says to have new elections candidate=person in election
Why did he lose 1st election?

The textbook

The Supreme Court's decision to have new elections was greeted with cheers from supporters of presidential candidate Viktor Yuschenko, who was declared the loser in the original November 21 election. Calling the
Supreme Court judges "real heroes," Yuschenko said, "Freedom and truth are returning to Ukraine following today’s decision." The judges met for five days before they made their final decision.
Since Ukraine's election on November 21, tens of thousands of people have flooded the streets of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. The crowds braved freezing temperatures to protest election results. Many wore orange to show support for Yuschenko. 

As you can see, a student who is prepared (like the example above) can participate in class more effectively and earn better grades!

The new year is beginning and I hope to see some of you at NIC!