Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Reading Terms in A and P

I recently wrote to A&P students about how new research on how the brain recognizes whole words (rather than letter-by-letter) when reading can help students read and learn A&P more quickly and accurately. See Reading scientific terms at The A&P Student blog.

We've suspected the brain handles reading in this manner--the recent research tells us where in the brain this happens and helps us understand the mechanism behind the process.

As we try to help our students learn A&P, it's useful for us to know about this phenomenon as well. As I explained to students, a good strategy based on this mechanism . . . a strategy long promoted by college reading teachers . . . involves reading the new terms of a chapter out loud before starting a new topic. Even if the student reads little (or, yikes, none) of the chapter, this strategy will help them when they encounter the terms in lecture, lab, or in handouts.

How does this method work? Because when we are reading efficiently (as the new research demonstrates), the brain does best when it can recognize whole words (rather than having to stop and read the word letter by letter or phoneme by phoneme). By reading and saying the words, allowing our brains to recognize or "own" the terms, we thus prime the brain so that reading will be faster and more efficient. Comprehension of what is read increases because the flow of reading is uninterrupted . . . and because the content of the passages can be put into a framework of terms that already exist as units in the brain's memory.

Presumably, familiarity with word parts helps this process by making the initial reading of terms more efficient. And it also helps so that when a new term (not practiced previous to reading) is encountered when reading, at least the word parts are recognized. This should make it easier (faster and more accurate) going than having to read a new term letter by letter.

In my textbooks, I always provide word lists with new terms in each chapter. The word list starts at the beginning of each chapter, with a "study tip" telling the student to read the list out loud before diving into the chapter reading. Now you know why I do this!

The chapter word lists also provide pronunciation keys to help with "owning" each term. The online resources available with the textbook also provide audio pronunciation guides. The word lists in the Anatomy & Physiology textbook also includes word parts that reinforce the recognition of roots, suffixes, and prefixes commonly encountered in the terminology of A&P.

If we share these tips with students, it will help them "get it" far more easily than without a reading strategy. Even students who are already good readers benefit from this approach.

Want to know more? Check out these resources:
Reading scientific terms
Kevin Patton
The A&P Student 7 June 2009
[Blog article for students lists specific steps to take to improve their reading and understanding of A&P]
Brain reads word-by-wordTina Hesman Saey
Science News 29 April 2009
[Nice summary article explaining the brain mechanisms recently discovered by neurobiologists.]
Evidence for Highly Selective Neuronal Tuning to Whole Words in the "Visual Word Form Area"Laurie S. Glezer et al.
Neuron Volume 62, Issue 2, 199-204, 30 April 2009
[Abstract of original research article; links to full article]
Deos the Bairn Not Raed Ervey Lteter by Istlef, but the Wrod as a Wlohe?Kalanit Grill-Spector and Nathan Witthoft
Neuron Volume 62, Issue 2, 161-162, 30 April 2009doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2009.04.009
[Editorial discussion of implications of findings in the Glezer et al. article cited above.]
Reading comprehensionEducation.com accessed 7 June 2009
[List of links to reading research and related resources]
{photo by --Tico-- on flkr}

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