- Use colors. Discriminately. Color coding is a very useful way to engage both your mind and your eyes in reading the piece in front of you, but you shouldn’t end up with a rainbow-colored block of text. In addition, having a key on the front page is helpful for mapping out the piece. Below is a suggested way to divvy up colors as you highlight/underline/circle/etc. a piece (as applicable):
- Vocabulary (writing the definition in the margin is a surefire way to show your teachers you’re paying attention and helping you remember it.)
- 1 Color per Main Idea + Its Supporting Details (If you have trouble identifying these, check the introductory/main paragraph and look for the thesis. This will also help you in creating theses, especially ones built off the piece at hand.)
- Eyebrow-Raising, Standout, or Interesting Quotes (these are a good way to keep track of what you’re interested in within the piece, and can be used in essays later on!)
- Have a Conversation in the Margins. That conversation can be with the text or with yourself, can be questions or exclamations – just make sure you engage your mind for better memory and understanding. Don’t be afraid to add personal reactions (e.g. “WOW what a jerk!”) if it helps you remember!
- Take Actual Notes. More time consuming and not as accessible as making marks in the text, but very helpful for understanding plot, character arcs, history, etc. and good references for when you need to create theses for essays.
- Track reactions in a double-entry system (divide the page into two parts and note passage/reaction)