R²: Reading the Anatomy Book

ReadingthuRsday-R2pleasureteamnote: Today we are proud  to feature our first-ever student perspective on reading in the community college classroom. I asked my A&P students to provide a personal perspective on their reading experiences–challenges, strategies, epiphanies, whatever.  Andrea’s submission was by far the best of the lot and simply too good to keep to myself. Please take a moment to read her thoughts. Do you see why I have the best job in the world?—Karen

MariebAlmost everyone would agree with me that the Anatomy & Physiology book is not the most pleasurable read nor the easiest. However, there is no way around the inevitable- if you take the class you have to read and understand the text. I used a couple different methods until I found the method that worked for me. My quiz scores went from average to perfect once I started to use my method of anatomy and physiology reading.

Like most students in my class, I am a working mother with a family. My son is one and I have one on the way.college_stress I am busy every minute of every day with doctor appointments, swim lessons, work and other classes. My family needs me until everyone is asleep; then I am able to sit down to study. Retaining information about neurons, chemical bonds and excitation-contraction coupling is tough when my body is telling me to sleep. I needed to find a quick and efficient way to study.

Reading and retaining are two different actions. Everyone can read an anatomy book. However, only a few people can retain the information. A study done at the University of Texas found that only 10% of what we read is retained during one sitting. Of course, a simple solution would be to read the same information 10 times and hope that 100% was retained-except not many people have time or patience for that.  Another study done by the NTL institute in 1960 discovered what we now call The Learning pyramid. The Learning Pyramid includes techniques used and graded by how efficient they are at aiding information retention.

The learning pyramid looks like this:

90% retained by teaching or using immediately_learning-pyramid

75% retained through practice

50% retained by engaged group discussion

30% retained by visual demonstration.

20% retained by audio-visual

10% retained by reading

5% retained from lecture.

According to an article written by Francie Alexander, comprehension improves once you know what the words mean. Of course, this seems obvious. How can you retain and comprehend an unknown language? Anatomy is a foreign language. I start my reading by learning the words of the new language. Personally, I make flashcards of words I don’t know with layman definitions. For the entire day I will go over them: at my son’s swim lessons, in the car, breaks at work etc. By the evening I have mastered new vocabulary words and have retained 75% of them, according to the learning pyramid. Once I read the chapter all the way through, I understand the text!

flashcardMy method makes the reading more enjoyable and easier to understand. Still, there are chapters that are more difficult than others to understand and retain. If this issue arises, make a couple minutes during dinner or in the car to “teach” your friends or family. Scientifically, retention should jump to 90%. The Anatomy & Physiology book shouldn’t be tedious or boring. I guarantee that using my method of flashcards and “teaching” will improve reading, test scores and take less time than trying to read paragraph after paragraph while trying to comprehend.


Alexander, Francie. “TEACHERS.” Scholastic Teachers. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2014. <http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/understanding-vocabulary&gt;.

“How to Retain 90% of Everything You Learn.” Psychotactics Zingers RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2014. <http://www.psychotactics.com/blog/art-retain-learning/&gt;.

“People Learn New Information More Effectively When Brain Activity Is Consistent, Research Shows.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2014. <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100909141537.htm&gt;.


2 comments on “R²: Reading the Anatomy Book

  1. What a great article! Are you sure you don’t want to be an English major? But then you might not be able to support your family.

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