There is a host of tools at the student's disposal for interacting with what we are reading. The concept is known as active reading and it will work to increase comprehension and retention of information. Try out some of the strategies below.
BEFORE YOU READ:
• Z – Sweep: Performing a Z-Sweep will help you understand what lies ahead. Move your hand from the left to the right under the first line, then back around through the body of the text, and then finish with a sweep from left to right at the bottom. Read the first sentence, glance or sweep through the body, and then read the last one or two sentences. By using this strategy, you can gain a cross-section of what you are about to read.
• SCAN: This strategy significantly improves text book reading comprehension in middle and high school students.
S = Survey Headings and Turn Them into Questions
Find each bold heading, and turn it into a question. For example, if the heading is The War of 1812, you should think, “What happened in The War of 1812?”
C = Capture the Captions and Visuals
Glance at the pictures or diagrams and read each caption.
A = Attack Boldface Words
Be sure to focus on the terms in bold. Quickly read these words for an understanding of the main vocabulary words.
N = Note and Read the Chapter Questions
This is perhaps the most important pre-reading strategy. Read the review questions at the end of the section first. This will help with the main idea behind the passage.
AS YOU READ OR AFTER YOU READ:
• Highlighting: Using color helps to increase attention. Highlight the main points and be careful not to become “highlighter crazy”. Highlight the main points after you read a section. As yourself, “What’s the main point of the paragraph I just read?”
• Margin Notes: Questions or comments jotted in the margins next to important paragraphs provide visual cues. Writing down quick notes as you read really helps with retention. Furthermore, when you go back over the book before finals, all the main ideas will be there for you.
• Summary Writing: Summarizing information is time-consuming, but it is the best way to be sure that you understand and remember what you read. You can write brief summaries at the end of each chapter or at the bottom of your 2-column notes. If you write a summary within 24 hours of taking notes or reading, you’re much more likely to retain the information.
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