Best Reading Comprehension Strategies for You To Employ
Reading comprehension is among the most important skills to possess today. It’s also one of the core reading skills you need to practice. It’s not only your grade in English language examinations that’s going to be higher when you improve your reading fluency and comprehension.
Research has found that reading regularly makes you more intelligent. It makes you a better observer, a wiser judge of the world and situations, and consequently, a more successful student and job candidate.
To practice critical reading and comprehension skills, you need to do more than take an article, a story, or a novel and only leaf through it or allow yourself to be distracted while reading it. You need to first understand what reading comprehension skills are and then learn the strategies you can employ to hone those skills regularly and consciously.
What Are Reading and Comprehension Skills—A List
Comprehension, though itself a part of a broader category of reading skills, can be further broken down into three types:
- Literal—the ability to understand the basic meaning of a text, like who it is about, what is happening on the page, or where the action is set
- Evaluative—the ability to judge the underlying implications within the text, not only what the words and sentences mean literally
- Inferential—the ability to infer meaning out of context by reading between the lines
Literal, evaluative, and inferential reading of a text are only parts of the broader term comprehension. There are many skills you need to possess to develop excellent comprehension abilities. Some of them are core reading skills, like vocabulary or reading fluency.
Learning Where Reading and Comprehension Skills Meet
Credit: Melanie Deziel
By now, you realize that reading and comprehension skills overlap. It is also why the two are often used to refer to the same ability. You can use several techniques of active reading to comprehend texts on the three above-mentioned levels.
Here is a list of some of these reading comprehension skills you need to develop:
- Critical thinking
- Research skills
- Writing skills
- Executive function
Enriching your vocabulary goes hand in hand with honing your comprehension skills. As you expand your mental lexicon with advanced vocabulary items, you gain better reading fluency.
Fact-checking is a part of any academic reading activity. When you are unwilling to look up the validity of statements within a text, you are approaching a dangerous road of becoming a passive recipient of information.
Especially in our day and age, when we are being bombarded by fake news and misinformation from all sides, you need to develop a habit of fact-checking your reading material.
Possessing critical thinking skills means you are willing to question everything you read. If you want to grow your comprehension abilities, you cannot take what is being presented to you at face value.
Using critical thinking while reading also means drawing your own conclusions about the material. Having critical thinking skills makes you a more active reader because you aren’t letting someone else’s worldviews affect your objectivity.
Being able to summarize the text you’ve read is integral to improving comprehension skills. When you can retell what you have consumed in your own words, you prove that you have not only understood the text but can also make up your mind about it.
When you go to college, you will spend a lot of time devouring scholarly papers and research articles. Sometimes, it will be a study material to pass an exam. Other times, you will need to gather the sources to back up your own research papers. In both scenarios, you will need to read these texts critically and employ research skills to check their credibility.
Writing skills go hand in hand with reading skills, and you should practice both often. For example, writing summaries or reviews of the material you’ve read helps you notice details in it that you might have overlooked the first time around.
When you are comfortable with experimenting with different writing strategies, you can also detect the writing methods other authors use in their works. This, in turn, means you are reading these works actively and honing your reading comprehension skills.
Executive function refers to any cognitive abilities you possess. For example, having a good memory, a long attention span, and efficient time-management skills means your executive functions are sharp.
If you want to hone your reading comprehension skills, you will need to work on your executive function too. To practice and improve, you need to be highly organized, not easily distracted, and able to keep what you’ve read in your mind for a long time.
Core Strategies To Improve Your Reading Comprehension Skills
Credit: Matt Ragland
You can employ many strategies to get your reading comprehension to a level of proficiency. The key is to set a specific goal for each practice you do and focus on improving one reading skill at a time. This doesn’t mean you can’t practice your vocabulary and writing in one day or simultaneously. You only need to be aware of which micro skill you will work on when you sit down to read your chosen material.
Any reading is beneficial and cannot hinder your progress. That said, you cannot go over a text with the mind to enrich your vocabulary, advance your critical thinking, and work on your research skills all at the same time. That can only split your focus in many different ways.
Strategies To Improve Your Vocabulary
A good starting point for honing your reading comprehension skills is gaining extensive vocabulary.
What makes any vocabulary practice fruitful is that vocabulary is an integral part of language. Whether you know it or not, you show how versed you are in vocabulary with any interaction or usage of language. Because of that, there are countless ways you can practice vocabulary. Here’s a table to demonstrate how different language skills sharpen your vocabulary:
|How It Improves Your Vocabulary
To practice vocabulary actively, you can highlight or jot down the words and phrases you’re unfamiliar with while reading. Keep in mind to incorporate the new vocabulary into your language usage to acquire it—not just memorize it.
Participating in conversations on a wide variety of topics will help you hone your vocabulary. Even when you are not comfortable with the topic of discussion, you should challenge yourself. Don’t let the possibility of making a mistake hold you back.
Noticing your slips is how you will improve. Engaging in classroom discussions, attending social gatherings, getting an internship, and joining internet communities all allow you to speak more.
Listening is a strategy you can employ in unison with speaking to grow your vocabulary range. Doing it on its own is also fruitful. When you can’t find a conversation partner, play some TedTalks, turn on podcasts, or watch movies. A neat idea would be to pick the material that is slightly above your language level but that matches your interests.
You can use the vocabulary you’ve learned recently in writing too. Come up with sentences in which you can use the words and phrases you picked up and note them down. You should also write longer pieces, like essays, summaries, or reviews, to become comfortable with the new knowledge. Writing regularly will make the vocabulary items you are trying to memorize a part of your regular lexicon.
Strategies To Learn Fact-Checking
If you want to reach an advanced reading comprehension level, fact-checking what you’re reading should come instinctively. In the age of the internet, mass media, and public journalism, not fact-checking your sources can have dire consequences.
Whether you’re reading a paper for a college assignment or an online newspaper article, employ these strategies to fact-check it:
- See whether the publisher is a reputable institution
- Check who the author of the text is
- Research where the viewpoints and statements expressed in the text come from
- Look up the sources the author is referring to and check any links shared
- Find out whether other publications are talking about the same topic
Strategies To Grow Your Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinking is almost synonymous with critical reading, and both sets of skills are integral to advancing your reading comprehension. Strategies to improve your critical thinking abilities can range from questioning the concepts you’re being taught in class to studying the structure of the text you’re reading.
Here are some of the most important techniques you should use while reading to enhance your critical thinking:
- Analyze your prior knowledge—ask yourself what you already know about the subject matter of your reading material. Check yourself anytime you might be transmitting your own beliefs and potential biases onto a text. See if the author somehow surprised you and determine why. Answer the question of what it is that you learned that you didn’t know before
- Play detective by gathering evidence—the action is similar to fact-checking your sources. Use the internet or any other research method available to you to determine where the author’s conclusions come from. See whether the points they’re making are valid or not
- Do some self-reflection—when you have determined the credibility of your reading material, decide whether you can get behind it. Only because you’ve proved that the author’s claims were true or that they were making sense doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. Coming up with original conclusions is a necessity for any critical thinker
Strategies To Employ While Summarizing
Summarizing is a subskill you need to hone regularly during your reading comprehension practice. Writing summaries does wonders with enhancing other skills mentioned, such as writing and critical thinking. Summaries are also great in their own right because they help you:
- Identify the main points in the text
- Separate facts from personal opinions
- Use and practice keywords employed in the text
- Practice memorizing the ideas you’ve read about
You can also do summaries orally. In class, never miss an opportunity to raise your hand and offer to recap the subject you have been taught about. You should also present your own viewpoints on it.
If you’re reading a longer piece of writing, like a novel or research paper, you can annotate to help you with your summary later. Make use of all the stationery and notebooks you own and have fun practicing reading comprehension.
Strategies To Enhance Your Research Skills
Credit: Russ Ward
Here are the strategies to use while doing your research:
- Know your keywords—knowing what phrases will yield the results you want is the starting point for effective research. If you begin your search by looking up phrases that are not key to the topic you’re researching, the entire process can go awry quickly
- Skim and scan—before reading the entire text, skim through it to see if it’s the right choice of reading material. If you are only looking for a specific bit of information in a longer text, you should scan it. This will help you locate the information you need faster. You shouldn’t devote your precious time to the parts that are of no use to you
- Compare your material—sometimes, you will find a large number of works you think are necessary to read for your research. When that happens, you should compare the texts by skimming them. This will help you determine which ones you’ll use and which aren’t as great as they first seemed to be
- Organize your sources—when you have all your sources in one place, you should have a technique to organize them. You will come back to them many times, and you should make it easy for yourself to do so. If you’re doing research online, bookmarking or dividing the material into folders helps. You should also highlight the parts of texts you know you will need to refer to often
- Get out of your computer chair—online research is the fastest way to find the sources and answers you need. The internet, though, isn’t an alternative to stepping out into the real world. Locate the centers in your area that deal with the topics you want answers on. Talking with experts face to face and gaining some real-life experience is always a plus
Strategies To Sharpen Your Writing Skills
You are doing yourself a giant favor by employing various writing strategies to create original texts. Writing activities help your reading comprehension because they:
- Enhance your vocabulary
- Make you more open to reading
- Help you recognize the different techniques authors employ
- Improve your memory
To practice your writing skills, you can employ numerous strategies. The rule of thumb is to write regularly, even when it’s not required of you.
If you want to focus on your reading comprehension, you can write:
- Analysis essays
You should also edit and proofread your work and, if possible, the works of others. It helps you reflect on how much you improved both your writing and reading abilities.
Strategies To Improve Your Executive Functions
What lies behind any—or at least the majority of—success stories is careful planning and excellent organization. You cannot progress without having determined a clear goal for yourself and set a specific timeframe within which you want to achieve it.
Executive functions are all about your cognitive abilities and your control over yourself, your time, and your practices.
When working on your reading comprehension, your executive function abilities play an important role. Here’s how:
Executive Function Skill
How It Helps Your Reading Practice
You cannot trust yourself to work on reading comprehension skills if your attention span is short. Practicing focus and concentration is an effort you have to take to work on your goal consistently and yield the result you want.
Setting up a specific time during which you will hone your reading skills is key to maintaining focus. If you honor the time you set, you will make reading a habit and broaden your attention span.
When you plan out your practice, you can do better in any area you wish to improve.
For example, to work on your critical thinking skills, plan to write down any questions that come to mind while you’re reading. If you want to practice your vocabulary, sit down with a highlighter and read only to mark the phrases that are unknown to you.
What About Teaching Strategies for Reading Comprehension?
By now, you have seen how many different strategies are out there that help you improve your reading comprehension skills—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Listed above are only some of the most important techniques to include in your regular practice of conscious reading. You might also be interested in the strategies to read poetry or those to write argumentative essays. Likewise, you might wish to learn the types of reading skills beyond the ones mentioned above.
Knowing how important both reading and writing skills are, you might also be wondering why school doesn’t teach you how to improve them. It’s time that was changed, don’t you think?
If you believe there is a need to make reading practice both fun and fruitful in the classroom, you’re not alone! It’s time we brought major innovations to our schools so that you can learn how to gain practical knowledge and apply it in any career you choose.
Perhaps you already have ideas on how to bring the much-needed changes into American education. If so, we want to support you to use your student voice actively and contribute to the cause. Write to us, and we’ll publish your words on our blog!