Put down your highlighter!

Tuesday 31 July 2018

Put down your highlighter. Make marginal notes or comments instead.

How many of us see students highlighting key points but actually covering the whole page in fluorescent colour?

When I see a student doing this I often encourage them to highlight fewer word. I explain that it is easier to remember less. Sometimes they reply, "but all of it is important". 

This is the point where alarm bells should ring. Here is a student who may not find it easy to answer questions in the exams in a way which matches any of the mark scheme points and it's not because their interest in Biology is lacking, it's because they haven't developed the right sort of active reading skills.

Reading a biology textbook and making sense of this information is as much a skill as answering an IB exam question is.  With the right type fo thinking and a bit of structure you can improve your revision and maximise your marks.

Here are a few suggestions of alternatives to highlighting the whole page:

  • Write a note in the margin instead of highlighting.
    • Number that particular point,
    • summarise the point in a few words,
    • ask a question,
    • make a link to something else.
  • Make a concise revision card,
    • write down key words on a sheet of paper
    • alternatively use small card or a post-it note.
  • Draw a 'spider diagram' or a flow chart.
    • Link related ideas together
    • Use block capitals for the name of a process.

Above all, try to have a dialogue with the author while you are reading the page.

Once you have finished reading the page try to explain what you have learned from this reading using your notes. 
If you can do this with ease, then you have clearly understood the concepts you were trying to learn or revise. 
If not, then re-read the points where you got stuck.


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