Reading to Comprehend and Learn
There are many practices that improve reading comprehension ability . First, in order to develop successful reading comprehension skills a student must become an active reader. The skills of an active reader include reading with a purpose, questioning the material, skimming for main ideas, reviewing, and reflecting on what has been read. All of these practices enable a student to learn how to absorb ideas while reading .
One of the most helpful pre-reading strategies for a student is to decide what to focus on in a particular reading assignment. For instance, a chapter in a text book may contain particular vocabulary terms that need to be identified and understood for a future test. Or, perhaps the purpose of reading a chapter is to answer a list of questions devised by the instructor. If the student keeps in mind the reason for reading the material, he or she is more likely to stay focused and absorb the information. Identifying a goal and pursuing it through the reading is one of the most valuable reading comprehension skills a student can develop.
The next useful item on the list of suggestions to improve reading comprehension is the practice of questioning. This involves a student pausing from his reading to question elements of the material that are puzzling or unclear. The questions may involve the author's intentions, an idea in the material, or any other point of confusion. This flow of questions allows the student to, "..probe for better understanding.." as he or she reads. It's also an excellent way for the student to keep his or her attention fully engaged in the reading.
A successful reader knows how to skim for important information . Overall comprehension of the material is helped along by first taking in its main ideas. This gathering of main ideas helps to build an, "..outline.." of what the chapter or reading is about. Some of the tips on skimming include focusing on chapter titles, bold words, and italicized words. As a result of the skimming technique, a student goes back to pick up the detailed information in the reading with an idea of the chapter's intention.
Two more tactics that improve reading comprehension ability are reviewing and reflecting on the material. The act of going back and reviewing the reading gives the student an opportunity to, "..evaluate his or her understanding of the text." Plus, the reviewing phase offers the student another chance to research any confusing elements of the material and solve any unanswered questions.
The skill of reflecting on reading material requires a student to consider what he or she has read. If a student has read several parts of one chapter, he or she reflects upon how these individual sections fit together logically. In addition, during this time the student may relate his or her prior knowledge to the newly learned material. Reflecting upon reading material helps to clarify points in a student's mind.