How to Improve Reading Comprehension
reading comprehension strategies - reading strategies
What is reading comprehension? Reading comprehension is being able to understand and hopefully remember most of what you’ve read. If you’re using your reading skills for enjoyment, you might not be so concerned with reading comprehension. When you’re employing your reading skills to learn new material, however, reading comprehension can become extremely important. You know this from when you were in school, and if you have kids who are in school, you’re probably reminded of the importance of reading comprehension quite often.
Students are constantly being evaluated on their reading comprehension. This might be done formally, in the form of quizzes, chapter tests, final examinations, and standardized tests, and it’s also assessed in informal ways, like in class discussions and homework assignments. Reading comprehension is often closely associated with writing skills, too. As a retired teacher, I understand the importance of reading comprehension!
Some people are just naturally effective readers. It seems that these fortunate individuals can just glance over unfamiliar written material and grasp it quickly. Others, however, aren’t so lucky. They might have to really work and struggle to learn the same material. Even for this latter group, there’s hope. There are several reading comprehension strategies you can use to improve reading comprehension.
Reading comprehension strategies - preview
Let’s say that you have to read a chapter in a textbook about American history, and let’s say the chapter includes twenty pages. That’s a lot of information to absorb. The material will be much easier to learn if you break the chapter down into sections. Before you begin reading, have a notebook and pen ready, and go to a quiet place where you won’t be distracted.
Consider the title of the chapter. What do you already know about this subject? Spend a few minutes recalling information you’ve learned that relates to the topic at hand. Next, scan the chapter’s headings, and write each one down in your notebook. Leave lines between the listings so that you can add notes later. When you come across unfamiliar words, write them down and look them up.
The next thing you need to do to improve your reading skills is to look at any pictures, photographs, tables, timelines, and diagrams in the chapter. Be sure to read the headings and captions. This will help prepare your brain to receive and process the new information.
Reading strategies – outlining
As you begin reading the chapter, take notes. After reading a paragraph, ask yourself, “What was the main idea of that paragraph?” If you can’t answer this question, you need to read the paragraph again. When you can correctly identify the main idea in the paragraph, jot it down in your notebook under the paragraph heading. Do this for all the paragraphs in the chapter.
When you’ve finished reading the chapter and taking notes, take a break. Our brains can only absorb so much information at one time. Enjoy a snack, take a walk, or watch television for an hour or so before returning to your study session.
When you return, close your book and read your notes. Do they make sense? Are you sure you understand the material, based on your notes? If not, reread the paragraphs that you find confusing, and update your notes if you need to.
Reading comprehension strategies for auditory learners
We don’t all learn the same way. Some of us learn best by seeing and reading, while others might learn best by hearing. If you’re an auditory learner, you might need to take some extra steps in order to improve your reading comprehension. After visually scanning the chapter and listing the paragraph headings, have someone read the chapter to you. If this isn’t an option, read the chapter aloud and record yourself. Take notes as you listen.
Actually, this is a good reading strategy for everyone, even for visual learners. Why? Our brains are like computers, and everything we see, hear, feel, taste, and smell is recorded. The problem, of course, is being able to retrieve the information when we need it. When we experience something via more than one modality, we have an extra tool for recalling the information, so our reading comprehension is greatly enhanced.
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