Wednesday, September 23, 2009


1. How does FLIRTing with a text, before you read, help you understand the author's expectations for you as a reader?

2. How does FLIRTing with a text keep you from quitting the reading?

Sunday, September 20, 2009


You’ve just finished watching Rachel Ray cook a ten minute meal. You have the recipe, and you have the ingredients, but do you have the proper tools? Just as a chef needs tools to manipulate the ingredients, readers need a graphic organizer to purposefully select information from long-term memory and mix it with new information from the text. Your ability to manage this manipulation of old and new information has a huge impact on how your mind processes and stores ideas.

Not all texts are created equal. The more structured the text, the easier it is for the mind to determine important text information and make connections with your schema. Research suggests, your mind is only capable of retaining information relevant to existing experiences (see I ALREADY KNOW). Look at these letters for ten seconds, then close your eyes to see how many letters you can remember IN THE SAME ORDER THEY APPEAR.


How many letters could you remember? Now repeat the process by looking at the letters below, closing your eyes and recall the letters IN THE SAME ORDER THEY APPEAR.


Which group was more meaningful and memorable? Both groups have the same thirteen letters listed in the same order; however, the second one makes more sense because I organized the letters into meaningful chunks. Your brain already has information about each one of these groups, but until I pointed out how they were organized, your brain struggled to make meaning.

As the experiment above proved, if you don’t take time to organize new information into meaningful chunks, your mind will get lost in the sea of sensory input streaming into the thalamus. As a result, you will have difficulty storing new information.

Helping your mind organize information will speed up your reading and improve your memory. Take time to FLIRT with the text to identify the external text structure and internal organization. The text structure helps you focus on essential information and the graphic organizer helps you purposefully connect isolated facts in a meaningful way.

A graphic organizer provides a container to visually show the relationship of ideas. The type of graphic organizer you use will depend on the author’s purpose, or how the author expects you to construct meaning. The goal is to identify the relationship between concepts and then find the most effective way to organize new information. The six most common text organizations are: enumeration, description, compare/contrast, sequence, cause/effect and problem/solution. To see sample graphic organizers, visit:

Enumeration, description, and compare/contrast are used when a concept is discussed through describing characteristics. With these texts, the way concepts are broken down into smaller subgroups is more important than the order it is presented.

When a concept is discussed through a process or time (dates), sequence, cause/effect, and problem/solution are the most effective graphic organizers. With these texts, the order the information is presented is most important.

FLIRTing organizes the mind’s schema by matching the right graphic organizer to the text structure of the passage. Taking notes on a graphic organizer allows the working memory to make strong connections between prior knowledge and new information in the text. This will improve your comprehension by allowing the mind to store new information in an organized, concise manner. Therefore, if you want to remember what you read, you must take time to establish a system for organizing and storing information before you read.

Streamline your thinking and deepen your understanding of the concept by choosing a graphic organizer that matches the demands of the text. Remember, using a graphic organizer will prevent your mind from getting burnt out.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Recipe for Reading

Remembering what you read is not automatic; it’s like a skilled chef carefully selecting ingredients for a five course meal. A chef uses a recipe to guide his decisions. For reading, the text features and author’s questions are a reader’s recipe. Each section is a separate recipe with its own ingredients. When you read, you can’t say, I am going to read to read. You have to be clear on your purpose and your direction. Mature readers know what they will have to do before they read a text.

Informational texts place a different set of demands on the reader. The good news is you have taken time to check out the external structures of the text and have gathered quite a lot of information. You know the genre, the topics, the purpose, and the pace of reading the text requires. All of this information is helping your mind establish a system for storing information.

Text structures give your mind a system for storing new information while you read. Authors use different text structures to support your mind in making meaning. If the text structure is based on description, the mind will store information by connecting common characteristics. If the text structure is based on time, the mind will store the information in sequential order.

As soon as you know the type of text structure the author used, your mind is prepared to retrieve information from long-term memory and processing new information. Before you read, FLIRT to determine the external structure of the text. When you serve your mind a five course meal of FLIRT, not only will you be able to read, you’ll be able to think!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


How do you read on-line texts? Do you start at the beginning and read every word? Do you read as fast as you can for 15 minutes and then give up when your brain is tired? Of course not! You skim through the web pages and say, “I wonder what this article is about? I’m curious about that picture.” Mature readers know the mind is naturally curious. When you FLIRT with the text, ask questions to create interest and set a purpose to read.

1. While you FLIRT, write your questions onto one side of a 3 x 5 card. Make sure to have one question per 3 x 5 card. Not only are 3 x 5 cards easier and lighter to carry around, they make studying very kinesthetic.
• Rewrite any author questions.
• Use pictures to write I wonder questions.
• Turn headings into questions.
• Use bold words to write I’m curious about questions.

2. Read the section with the purpose of answering your question.
• Highlight key words and ideas that help answer the question.
• Talk to the text by writing other thoughts in the margin.

3. Once you finish reading the section, write a summary that answers your question on the other side of the 3 x 5 card.
• Draw pictures or make motions to help your mind make connection to the information.
• When writing the summary, close the book so you are only using your working memory.
• Check with a tutor, peer or professor for any questions you couldn’t answer.

Your mind is not an encyclopedia filled with isolated facts in alphabetical order, it’s more like Google, waiting for you to type in your topic and hit SEARCH. As soon as you ask a question, your mind quickly searches for relevant connections.

The next time you pick up your textbook, log-on to your mind computer and enjoy all the free applications that allow you to play while you read. Visualizing allows you to transfer the printed text into moving pictures. Activate your Schema to create personal conversations with the author. Sneak a peek behind the scenes when you Infer the author’s message. The Clarifying application offers 24 hour customer service to explain confusing words and ideas. You could even get a chance to identify the most important information by using your Summarizing application.
When you set a purpose to read, you are the one controlling what and how you read. Become part of the most innovative and interactive community in the world; read.
Open up your textbook and start FLIRTing with the text features. Notice your mental thoughts as you scan the pictures, headings, and bold words. Jot down what you already know about the information advertised by the author. Write down any questions that pop into your mind. Ask yourself, “Am I reading to learn or to be entertained?” “What do I hope to learn from this text?” “What will this text be about?"
Use this information to determine how fast or how slow you can read the text. If you know a lot, you may just have to skim the text. If you don’t know a lot, you will have to stop often and read slower to make sure your mind has time to make meaning of the new information. Pay attention to your inner voice. The instant it starts thinking of something else, stop and refocus. Take a break every 15 to 20 minutes. Skip what you know, read what you want to learn, and focus on reading for meaning.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Starting a conversation with someone you like can be slow and uncomfortable. And searching for topics of conversation can be a challenge. Have you ever experienced an awkward silence because you have no idea what to say?

Don’t look now but your “someone special” is coming over to talk with you! Stop worrying, you look fabulous but what are you going to say? The quicker you make connections, the easier it will be to talk. If you’ve flirted correctly, you should be well on your way to making connections. Take a deep breath, smile, and ask yourself, “What do I already know about this person?” As you use this information to chat about the last class you both attended, you’ll find yourself saying, “Me too!, I know!, I remember when I…”

Just like flirting, you need to search for connections before you read. Mature readers make connections between their previous experiences and the text features to support their memory. The amount of connections you make determines how efficient and effective you will learn the printed material. Before you read, ask yourself, “What do I already know about this topic, author, or genre?”


Schema (pronounced skhÄ“ma) is a Greek word meaning plan. Schema is the mind’s way of being organized so you can quickly recall information. Throughout your life your mind has been storing and organizing two different types of knowledge: background knowledge and prior knowledge.

Background knowledge contains stored memories you have personally experienced. Examples include: trips to the beach, sporting events, and experiences with family. You use background knowledge schema when you make text to self connections and text to world connections. (See CUT IT OUT for more information about connections).

Prior knowledge contains all the factual information you have learned. Examples include: historical, scientific, and mathematical concepts learned in school. You use prior knowledge schema when you make text to text connections and text within a text connections. (See CUT IT OUT for more information about connections.)

Not all ideas are created equal. The amount of background knowledge and prior knowledge your schema contains is different for every topic, concept, and vocabulary term. As a result, the connections you make between the text and your previous experiences will vary.

Your mind doesn’t automatically remember new information unless it can be connected to existing schema. Cognitive researchers have found schema is not like a single filing cabinet, it’s more like Velcro (Heath, 2007). “The Velcro Theory” suggests new information enters short-term memory for a few seconds. If the mind cannot “hook” old information to new information, the new information is discarded. In other words, you are only capable of retaining information relevant to existing experiences. How do you activate these hooks?

Before you read, FLIRT with the text by looking at the text features and asking yourself, “What do I already know about the topic?” By activating your schema, you alert your mind to useful information already stored in your long-term memory. This information will help make meaningful connections between your mind and the author’s message.

Each time you learn or experience a new concept, your schema has three different types of reactions: assimilation, accommodation, or elimination.

Assimilation is when the mind perceives the new information as meaningful and creates new connections. For example, Fred knows tusks are long, white, external teeth used for protection. From his visits to the zoo, Fred has seen walruses with tusks. During a unit on African Elephants, Fred learns elephants also have tusks. Fred’s schema added or assimilated connections between walrus-tusk-elephant.

Accommodation is when the mind alters or changes existing schema. For example, after Fred’s new discovery of elephant tusks, Fred applied this information incorrectly to all elephants. While he was doing a research project on different types of elephants, he discovered only certain elephants have tusks. Fred’s schema changed or accommodated by removing some of the connections between “all elephants have tusks” to “not all elephants have tusks.”

Elimination occurs when new information is perceived as irrelevant or when old schema connections are not used regularly. Your mind naturally eliminates or prunes away neurological connections that aren’t used to make room for new connections. This is why it is important to read, study, or talk about factual information every day. If you don’t use the new connections you built while reading, your mind will eliminate them.


Your personal life has everything to do with what you are reading.

Mature readers know their amount of schema strongly influences their ability to make meaning from the text. Don’t waste your time trying to memorize concepts in isolation. Without connecting new knowledge to your previous knowledge, your mind may not be able to recall it for future conversations or tests. Even worse, your mind may perceive the new information as irrelevant and discard it. Why take the chance? Support your mind by taking time to determine what you already know.

You have a lot of useful information in your mind. Some of the information you have personally experienced. Other times you heard it or saw it on TV. You may have read about it on the Internet, book, or magazine. Some information you may have just learned by looking at the text features. You can keep your mind interested by making connections to four different areas of knowledge.

Text to Self connections arise when you make connections to your background knowledge, or stored memories you have personally experienced. Ask yourself, “When have I been there, done that, or felt that way?” If you discover a connection, jot the idea in the margin or on a post-it note right by the text feature that stimulated the memory. Start your sentence with, “I already know…”

Text to World connections occur when you make a connection to something you remember but haven’t personally experienced. Maybe your Uncle was in Iraq or you heard about the topic on the news. Ask yourself, “When has someone else been there, done that, or felt that way?” If you make a text to world connection, start your sentence with, “This reminds me of…”

Text to Text connections happen when you recall similar information from a text you have read in the past. Ask yourself, “Where have I read about the topic, the place, or a person’s feelings?” Begin your text to text connection with, “I remember when…”

Text within a Text connections are made when you recall information you just read. Maybe you previewed the introduction and summary paragraphs of the chapter or a topic from another page was discussed again. Ask yourself, “Has the author left any clues about the topic, the place, or the person’s feelings?” When you make a text within a text connection, start your sentence with, “From what I read in the text…”

As soon as you take time to check all four areas of your schema, you create a deeper understanding and remember more. Making connections helps you transfer the new information into long-term memory so you can ACE your test.


It’s time to ask yourself, “What do I already know about the genre, author, and topic?” Open up your textbook and look at the text features. Notice your mental thoughts as you scan the text. Write down any memories that pop into your mind. Pay attention to your inner voice as it compares the text feature information to your schema.

As you FLIRT with the information advertised by the author, establish a plan for your reading. This will help you determine which sections will be difficult to read. For example, if you have an abundance of prior knowledge, you will find the section easy to read and your pace fast. However, if the topic is new or you have very little prior knowledge, be prepared to read the section with a slower pace, stopping often to make sure your mind has time to make new connections within your schema.

The next time you pick up a text, take into consideration your previous knowledge about the topic so your mind can build strong neurological connections. FLIRTing with the text alerts the mind to focus on critical features and anticipate specific connections.

Check out Chip Heath and Dan Heath's book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Other Die at


It’s Saturday night, around 6:00 p.m., and you’re taking your “special someone” out to her favorite restaurant for an intimate date. When you arrive, the place is packed with people. You go to the hostess station and she says, “Hi, do you have a reservation?” You don’t have a reservation and now you are starting to sweat because you know you are not going to get a table.

Reading is like going to your favorite restaurant on a Saturday night. If you don’t make reservations, the reading won’t get done. To improve your reading, set a time to read, daily.


1. # of sections ___x 5 minutes = __ minutes to read the chapter.
2. # of sections __ ÷ 4 =__ how many breaks you will need to take x 5 minutes for each break = __ minutes you will need for brain breaks.
3. Minutes to read ___ + ___Break time = ___Total reading time

Find the chapter you need to read for this week and then use the following formula to calculate how much time you will need to reserve to read.

1. A nonfiction chapter is complied of many major ideas. In order to support the reader, an author uses titles and headings to advertise the main idea of a small section of text. If you read correctly, you will need about five minutes to read each section. This means one minute to FLIRT (This is a ___ about___. I already know______ and I am curious about____. The author wants me to ____.) three minutes to read the words and then one minute to summarize the main idea. (See HIGHLIGHTING, DRAWING, AND NOTES, OH MY!) Now, flip through your chapter and count how many sections you will have to read and then fill in the first part of the formula. (Remember, a section is a title or heading followed by a small chunk of text)

# of sections ___ x 5 minutes = ___ minutes to read the chapter.
Example: # of sections 12 x 5 minutes = 60 minutes to read the chapter.

2. Surprised? You’re not done yet! Research suggests the brain needs time to process the new information. Stopping every twenty minutes, or every four sections for a brain break is ideal. Let’s say you will need about a five minute break. During this break, you can: check your cell phone, return the IMPORTANT calls, respond to social networks on line, walk around, and get a snack. Time to fill out the section part of the formula:

# of sections ___ ÷ 4 =__ how many breaks you will need to take x 5 minutes for each break = ___ minutes you will need for brain breaks.

Example: # of sections 12 ÷ 4 = 3 how many breaks you will need to take x 5 minutes for each break = 15 minutes you will need for brain breaks.

4. To determine the total time you will need to read this chapter: take the minutes you will need to read the chapter and add it to the amount of time you will need for breaks.

Minutes to read __ + __ Break time = __ Total reading time
Example: Minutes to read 60 + 15 Break time = 75 minutes of total reading time.


The Reading Reservation Formula is a guide to support your decision making about reserving the proper amount of time you will need to read. Keep in mind the time needed to read will change depending on your level of prior knowledge, difficulty of the text, and your interest in the topic. If the text is hard to read or you do not have a lot of prior knowledge about the topic, your pace of reading will be slower. In this case, change the time for reading each section from five minutes to seven minutes. If you are not interested in the subject you are reading, count in more time for breaks

Copy and paste the Reading Reservation Formula in your post. Then complete the formula. Does this match the time you have reserved for reading or will you have to make adjustments to your daily schedule? Remember, making a reservation to read will guarantee an intimate date with the author.

1. # of sections __ x 5 minutes = __ minutes to read the chapter.
2. # of sections __ ÷ 4 =__ how many breaks you will need to take X 5 minutes for each break = ___minutes you will need for brain breaks.
3. Minutes to read ___ + __ Break time = __ Total reading time

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Newsflash! Your mind doesn’t like to work, it likes to have fun. Mature readers know how to create an environment that matches their learning style. Everyone’s brain is hardwired to learn differently. You may want to skip to HOW ARE YOU SMART to discover how your mind likes to learn. This information will help you choose which strategies match your interest.

You may not be able to control what you read, but you can control how you read. All sensory information flows first into the thalamus. From here the information is sorted and sent to both the amygdala and the frontal cortex. The pathway from the thalamus to the amygdala is shorter and faster than the pathway from the thalamus to the frontal cortex. As a result, your mind responds first to emotional information than rational thought.

By accommodating your environment to match your learning style, the amygdala senses happy emotions and sends out messages that say, “This is fun, keep reading, keep reading!”Since emotions drive memory, you can strengthen your mind’s ability to transfer new information from working memory into long-term memory by choosing note-taking tools that match your learning style. Your ability to create meaning is directly related to your ability to choose the tools which help your mind process information. When you understand how your brain works, you can change your reading behaviors, retain more information, and improve your learning.

It’s time to use those tools you’ve been avoiding. If you are a kinesthetic learner, make sure you take notes, create movements, and highlight while you read. If you are a visual learner, make sure you draw pictures, use different color highlighters, and create collages for abstract concepts. If you are an auditory learner, make sure you talk back to the author by writing your thoughts in the margins and share your ideas with a friend. Explore your thinking and notice which tools help you remember the information.

Learning becomes exciting when you create an environment that matches the way your mind prefers to read. Remember, when your mind has fun, the reading gets done!

Monday, September 7, 2009


Please check your Penn State email for the FLIRT GOAL #1 Survey. This survey needs to be completed by Tuesday, September 7, 2009.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Are you intimidated to walk up and talk to your love interest? It’s easier to begin a conversation if you know what to talk about. You can tell a lot about a person by her outside appearance and then use this information to help begin a conversation. Chances are the physical features of this person; their hair, face, clothes, and body language, can give clues to predict their interests, feelings, and behaviors.

For example, you could use her hairstyle to guess how much time she spent getting ready for the day. His outfit might leave clues as to which activities he enjoys. Even a person’s facial expressions can help you guess her mood. A person with a smile might be happy, confident, and friendly compared with a person who is looking down might be shy, quiet, or angry.

It can be just as intimidating to begin reading an academic text. However, if you take time to check out the physical features of the text before you read, you will find clues the author left to tell you what you will learn. Mature readers know to look at the text features before they read so they know what’s important.

Text features are an author’s way of advertising what is important and interesting about the text. The author uses these physical features to alert you to new vocabulary words and provide visuals to help your mind stay focused. Text features support your note taking and serve as a guide when preparing summaries. Visuals such as charts, graphs, and maps can add meaning the author did not include.

Think for a minute about four people you know. Chances are these four people look and act very different. Your mind is able to identify each person through their different features. When it comes to text features, each one is a little different in the way it looks and functions. As a result, your mind stays interested in the topic and continues to pay attention to novel (or new) information.

Authors use titles, headings, and subheading to help your mind activate everything you already know about the topic and prepare these parts of your brain to add more information. Your mind is then able to store information in an organized pattern that makes the most sense.

Some text features highlight additional information by changing the font. Introduction paragraphs, special fonts, captions, and summary paragraphs are used by the author to keep your mind alert and focused. Your mind gets bored with words that are the same size, shape, and color so the author changes the font as a way of saying, “Hey! Look at me! I’m special! I’m important!” And believe me, you are going to be glad you paid attention. (On the computer, special fonts may take you to another site. Be careful not to get too far away from your original purpose.)

Charts, diagrams, graphs, and maps allow the author to give more information about the topic in a small space. You’ve heard the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and this is exactly why authors choose to use them. Sometimes it is easier to explain a concept through a visual instead of with words. Make sure to FLIRT with charts, diagrams, graphs, and maps BEFORE and AFTER you read. This will help your mind condense and connect a lot of new information into a small, yet organized pattern.

Pictures, illustrations, and chapter questions support the text by providing a specific visual to help make meaning from the written words on the page. Remembering the parts of a cell is much easier when you have a picture of a cell with each part labeled.

You already know when reading nonfiction, you can scan quickly to locate the information you want to read. Authors use table of contents, indexes, and page numbers to help you locate information quickly. (If you are reading on the computer, you will want to find the site menu.) Here is a helpful hint: When studying for a test, don’t reread the whole chapter. Use the index to locate the key concepts and review only those pages.

TIME CHECK – Does your mind need a break? Stand up, walk around, get a drink and then come right back. You have two minutes.

CUT IT OUT: Reading the text features are more important than reading the paragraphs.

Do you ever start out strong with the intention of reading the whole chapter and then give up half way through either because you are too tired, too confused, or run out of time? It’s easy to get lost in the sea of academic words and abstract concepts, however, text features allow you to cut out this behavior and establish a direction for your reading.

Mature readers know text features are a set of instructions on how to find and locate specific information related to the author’s questions. When you look at text features, you are learning what the author thinks is important. As a result, you won’t waste your time trying to decide what to highlight. It’s easier to read if you know what you need to remember.

Text features are a reference point from which you can determine what ideas are important and relevant to an assignment. The more time you spend looking at the text features, the more your mind will remember.

The bad news is you must take the time to FLIRT with the text features before you read if you want to have control over your thinking. What does this mean? It means you cannot wait until the last minute to read. Reading demands time!
· Time for planning what and how you will read the text.
· Time for thinking about what you already know about the topic.
· Time for rereading difficult sections.
· Time for taking breaks when your mind is full of too much information or your eyes start to get sleepy.
· Time for drawing pictures and taking notes.

If you know you don’t set aside enough time to read, click on the post entitled: Procrastination is NOT an Option to learn more about how to change this habit.

TIME CHECK – Does your mind need a break? Stand up, walk around, get a drink and then come right back. You have two minutes.


Do you highlight every other word because it all seems important? When you take notes, do you rewrite everything from the text until your arm hurts? FLIRTing with the different text features before you read can help you discover the external structure of the text and identify the main ideas while you read.

Go ahead, check out those text features to identify the topic and main ideas located in the headings or highlighted with special fonts. Now, read the actual paragraph and watch for repeated words or ideas that relate to the heading. Highlight those ideas and paraphrase the concept on a post-it note. Finally, if you get confused, look on the page to get more information from the text features. There may be a picture to help you visualize the event or a diagram that helps you make sense of abstract concepts.

The next time you pick up a text, take into consideration the external clues the author left so your mind can begin to make meaning. When you FLIRT before you read, your mind stays interests in the text, creates connections between major ideas and remembers more than you ever thought possible.