Law School Academic Support Blog

Editor: Amy Jarmon
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Speed Reading with the Nerds

RadarThis week (our first week of classes), a wunnelle popped in to the office and mentioned that he is "speed-reading" through his casebooks.  My radar dish started spinning at high speed.

Having taken the Evelyn Wood Reading Dynamics course in 1967 (okay, so I'm a little rusty at it now), I suspected the student may be confusing "speed-reading" with "not-reading."

So I went to my favorite research resource: the World Wide Web.

My first stop was at a site operated by "Reading Genius, Ed Strachar."  When I notice that he advertises by telling students: "Learn more by studying you (sic) Law texts faster!" ... I wondered about Ed's attention to detail.  The site advertises: "Law School: A Survival Guide to Success at Law School."  Regular readers of this blog are probably aware of my allergic reaction to the "survival" concept.  (I don't want my attorney whispering to me - at the start of my trial: "I sure hope I survive.")  I was gratified to see that the $395 price has been reduced to $297. 

I was thrilled to find Vernellia Randall's advice to beginning law students: "Find out how fast you read complex material and with what comprehension.  Then spend the summer working to bring your reading speed of complex material up to between 200-300 words per minute and your comprehension 85-100 percent on one-time reading. ... Please note, I am NOT talking about speed reading but merely a decent reading speed with high comprehension."

Next, I found that both Vernellia and the Marshall-Wythe Law Library at the College of William and Mary suggest (the now out of print) Reading Skills for Law Students by Craig Mayfield (Michie Company, 1980).  According to the library's description, this material was "...developed from a speed reading course for law students at Brigham Young University as a workbook for enhancing reading speed and comprehension skills of legal materials. Organized into three parts, each with reading selections followed by questions to gage comprehension. Time conversion tables are available in the appendix to convey (sic) time taken to read to words read per minute."  Note that the material is developed from a speed reading course, but is not a speed reading method.

Yet another commercial enterprise advertises: "Our Law School Survival Skills [argh! (ed.)] programs cover the basic techniques required for students who wish to survive [argh again. (ed.)] and excel in the law school environment.  Lawyers report that they would have done better in law school and had reduced stress levels if they had learned these skills before beginning law school. ... [including] ... speed reading."  If you know these lawyers who reported to this company, let me know.  I'd like to learn from them.

Then I stumbled upon the Law Nerds.  Included under the heading "speed reading" are these expert pieces of advice:

  • Skipping: As a result of pre-reading, you can determine which paragraphs you can skip altogether.  ... skipping can actually increase overall comprehension.
  • Skimming: ... use skimming when you are basically familiar with the material but need more information than what you got out of the overview.
  • Reading: Reading doesn't mean that you have to read every word. ... Once the semester starts, you will be hard pressed to read every assignment during your first semester.

The bulleted material is quoted (admission: it's also lifted out of context for the sake of brevity).  After reading the text in its entirety, I remain a skeptic.

Query: Should we be teaching our students how to "speed read?"  Your thoughts?  Send me an e-mail and I'll post it.  (djt)

August 27, 2005 in Reading | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Learning Style Survey Self-Assessments

From Joe Landsberger's site ...

As Academic Support people, we are interested in learning styles.  Earlier this year, some learning style surveys/questionnaires appeared on this blog ... here is another group, distilled from Professor Landsberger's site (which was featured in my earlier August 25 posting, below).

  • DVC Learning Style Survey for College
    ... includes four categories of styles (visual/verbal; visual nonverbal; tactile/kinesthetic; auditory/verbal), and a self-assessment web-based tool. Results/scores are based upon 32 questions. (Previously featured on this blog ... from Diablo Valley College in California.)

  • Index of Learning Styles Questionnaire (Felder/Silverman)
    ... includes introduction, learning preferences on four dimensions (active/reflective, sensing/intuitive, visual/verbal, and sequential/global); and a self-assessment instrument self-scored. Results/scores are based upon 44 questions.

  • The SuccessTypes Learning Style Type Indicator (Pelley)
    ... this type indicator is based on the Myers Briggs Type Indicators (Extraversion, Introversion, Sensing, Intuition, Thinking, Feeling, Judging, Perceiving). Results/scores are based upon 28 questions.

  • Learning Disabilities Resource Community
    ... this is a self-assessment instrument based upon Howard Gardner's work on multiple intelligences (linguistic, mathematic, visual/spatial, body/kinesthetic, naturalistic, music, interpersonal, intra-personal). Results/scores are based upon 80 questions.  (djt)

August 25, 2005 in Learning Styles | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

How to Study!

Ruth McKinney alerted me to this study guide web site, recommended to her by Judith Wegner.

Joe This all-inclusive site, developed by Joseph Landsberger (review his very interesting CV), cuts across academic, cultural, linguistic and age boundaries.

Right away, I was blown away by his Time Management "Learners' Day Planner." This interactive tool is at once simple and amazing.  Try it.

His down-to-earth advice on "Concentrating" is well-worth distributing to students.  ("Concentration," Professor Landsberger writes, quoting Stefan Zweig (1881 - 1942), "is the eternal secret of every mortal achievement." Tell that to the students you find "concentrating" in the cafeteria or on the classroom corridor sofas.)

Let me know as you discover other useful information out there on the Information Superhighways.  (djt)

August 25, 2005 in Advice, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Advice to First-Year Law Students

The first thing I like about this article was this: I searched for the word "survival" and discovered it wasn't there.

The second feature I enjoyed?  The author's emphasis on learning the language of the law: "If I had realized that the law was going to be a new language for me, I think I would have been much more patient with myself. Knowing and accepting the great difficulty involved in learning this new language, the considerable amount of time required to master it, and the steep learning curve confronting new students, can be very helpful."

An admission follows: Bingo is ubiquitous.  "In my law school, games of Bingo were sometimes played - with the squares representing the students who spoke up in class. I heard once that my own name was in the center of a board. That can hurt - but on reflection, not so much. Silent detractors are kind of pathetic." 

This might be a good (quick) read for some of your struggling wunnelles.

HildenJulie Hilden, a Yale Law grad, having also earned an MA in creative writing from Cornell, lives in New York city.  After practicing law for several years, Ms. Hilden now writes (creatively) full time. Her regular law column appears in's on-line magazine Writ and on CNN's Law Center. Her first book, a memoir, was entitled The Bad Daughter (1998); in 2003 she published 3, a novel which(according to one reviewer on " both beautiful, and disturbing ... definitely not for the faint of heart ... extremely graphic [with] gut-wrenching scenes...."  Doesn't this description sound like some students describe law school? (djt)

August 24, 2005 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Study Tips - General | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Grieving - Part III

The recent posts on "grief" attracted this response from Denise Riebe, Senior Lecturing Fellow at Duke Law School . . .

Hi Dennis: 

I thought the grief topic was an excellent one to address on the blog.  I have several comments, all of which you're welcome to send along to anyone that might benefit. 

First, I think that we often try to overlook losses and the grieving process.  And, often we try to limit "grief" to death situations. 

In fact, it is natural for every single type of loss we experience in life to be followed by a grieving process.  Other than death, losses may include the loss of a dream, the loss of a friend, the loss of a relationship, the loss of a goal, the loss of one's self-image (I thought I was "smart"), the loss caused by infertility or miscarriage ... the list is long. 

Unfortunately, life is filled with losses, and the grieving response is a natural and healthy response (healthy because it helps you deal with and work through a loss and move on). 

Support for working through a loss is also crucial.  For those without a friend or family they can rely on for support, professional counseling is essential.  It's also important to note that, in many situations, the persons that one would naturally rely on for support (example: close family) are unavailable.  Why?  They, too, are grieving. 

I've heard that Hospice organizations have excellent grief group sessions -- where those who have experienced the loss of a loved one can be supported and work through their grief with others experiencing the same thing. 

Thanks again for addressing a very important topic.



August 23, 2005 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 22, 2005

Grieving ... a Student Perspective

Yesterday, I posted an article on grieving over the loss of a loved one.  The posting struck a chord with a law student who had experienced enormous losses during law school.  With the writer's permission, I post the student's letter . . .

Hello Dean,

My name is ______, and I will soon graduate from _____ Law School.  Unfortunately, I have first-hand experience with grieving in law school.  My mother died from a rare disease on my second day of orientation, and my father died 7 months later from cancer.  The word "difficult" obviously does not adequately describe that time for me.

I found it helpful that the school immediately expressed sympathy and support.  During that first meeting, the administration also clearly explained my options.  Because I wanted (needed) to be in   (city)  with my father while he was in hospice at home, it meant I necessarily had to miss some classes.  The administration let me know that if I missed more than a certain number of classes, it would be up to each individual professor as to whether I would be allowed to sit for the final in that class. 
While this caused me concern, I let it go almost immediately because I realized my first semester of school would either be a wash and I would have to reapply or I would make it through somehow.  The school's position was clear, so I didn't have to worry about it and could concentrate on being with my family.

I made it through that time, though I didn't do as well as I felt I could have.  But I was able to grieve and say goodbye, and that was the most important thing.  The rigors of academics and my parents' strong desire that I finish law school helped me to get on with life.  I anticipate a second form of grief to accompany my unwinding after I take the bar in February.  I actually look forward to that time.

I'm not sure how many schools have an internal policy on how to deal with grieving students, but from my perspective it should be required. 
A carefully considered procedure can make all the difference for a student during this kind of tough experience.  We have enough to deal with, and the administration has a duty to make that time easier, rather than inadvertently causing more anxiety.

A Law Student
If you would like to correspond with this student, I have been provided an email address which I will share with you upon request.  (djt)

August 22, 2005 in Advice, Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

On Grieving

From time to time, I encounter students who are having academic difficulty caused or exacerbated by circumstances outside of the law school adventure.  One of those circumstances is death.  What do you say to the student who has lost a parent, a sibling, a child?

Today I read "Stress, Change and Loss," the draft of an article by Stephen Marsh, a Texas lawyer who has experienced devastating family tragedies.  This article represents one person's point of view about what hurts and what helps. 

"If you are on the outside, helping someone who is experiencing grief," Mr. Marsh writes, "express sympathy and feel free to express that you do not know what to say. The statement 'I'm so sorry, I don't know what to say, but I want you to know that I am so sorry and I wish I could do more. We are praying for you and thinking of you...' is just fine. It is truthful, honest and direct, doing no harm and much good."

I was not able to find the article in its finished (published) form.  If you are able to find it on-line, please send it along, and I'll include it on the blog.

Does anyone else have some advice to contribute for students dealing with grief?  Send me an e-mail and I'll post it here.  (djt)

August 21, 2005 in Encouragement & Inspiration, Miscellany, Stress & Anxiety | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)