One of the basic versatile skills that students need in their professional sphere is reading and rendering of scientific literature. According to many scientists who investigate this question such as B. Brodcrick, J. Langan, L.C. Smith., good strategy chosen for teaching reading helps to develops students’ reading comprehension, speech acquisition, and sharpens their ability to figure out vital elements from the text. The methods of receiving and transferring the processing information improve students’ creativity, and independent work with scientific literature. The purpose of this article is to present the ways and study techniques for improving students’ reading comprehension.
The aim of reading is to integrate the ideas received from the text with those, which you already know. Reading comprehension requires motivation, concentration, mental frameworks for keeping ideas in mind, and good study techniques.
Before presenting the text or article to read, the teacher should assure himself of the relevance of the issue or problem raised by the author in the text. The teacher should take into consideration learners’ interests, needs, attitudes, students’ background, expectations and other objective and subjective needs. Moreover, the society demands, institutional guidelines, and standardization cannot be ignored. The combination of scientific and entertaining texts will cause students’ motivation in reading, and, therefore, it will improve reading comprehension.
The teachers specializing in teaching reading or readers themselves may follow the steps which are quite effective for improving students’ reading comprehension skills:
- Before you begin reading, look at the pictures and try to predict what the text will be about.
- Look at the title of what you are reading. Usually it contains the topic or general idea of the text.
- Try to recollect something you know about the topic (use your background knowledge)
- Connect your new readings to what you already know
- Pay attention to the structure of the text. Remember: building blocks of reading consist of words, sentences, and paragraphs.
- Before you begin reading, you need to find the beginning, middle, and end of paragraphs. You need to examine how a paragraph is put together. Remember: a paragraph is a group of sentences. Paragraphs tell you a complete set of thoughts. Further, we present some steps of working with the paragraphs.
Here is some paragraph.
Is watching violence on television harmful? In fact, we now know that TV violence does affect people in negative ways. One study showed that frequent TV watchers are more fearful and suspicious of others. They try to protect themselves from the outside world with extra locks on the doors, alarm systems, guard dogs, and guns. That same study also showed that heavy TV watchers are less upset about real-life violence than non-TV watchers. It seems that the constant violence they see on TV makes them less sensitive to the real thing. Another study, of a group of children, found that TV violence increases aggressive behavior. Children who watched violent shows were more willing to hurt another child in games where they were given a choice between helping or hurting. They were also more likely to select toy weapons over other kinds of playthings. Therefore, we can see that all these factors make a bad impact on people’s life.
- Find the first sentence.
- Find the last sentence.
- How many sentences are in the middle?
- How many sentences are in the whole paragraph?
You can notice that a paragraph has a beginning, middle, and end. Understanding more about paragraphs will improve your reading comprehension.
Below we make some suggestions how to work with all parts of the paragraph.
- Having read the beginning of the paragraph, choose the most important sentence
in this paragraph. Usually there is just one main sentence. The most important sentence in a paragraph is called the topic sentence. It tells you what the rest of the paragraph is about. The topic sentence is often found at the beginning of the paragraph.
- Look at rest of the paragraph and find a detail or details. A detail is a small thing that tells you something more about the topic. Details are likely to be located in the middle of the paragraph. They are called supporting details as they support the topic sentence which can also show the main idea.
- Choose the concluding sentence of the paragraph. It is often located at the end of the paragraph. The concluding sentence is what the topic and details build up to. The concluding sentence often sums up the paragraph. Sometimes the concluding sentence will give you an idea about what the next paragraph will be about
While reading the text you may use the following strategies which also improve reading comprehension:
- Read several times
Read at least for 3-4 times: 1observe the structure of the text, writing style, 2get the main idea, 3search for necessary details (for example, main characters, statistics, events, etc), 4Reviewing reading helps you decide whether something in the reading has confused you. It helps you see if you’ve missed something.
- Work with the context
If you meet an unknown word, go on to the next word. Or, it’s better to use the context (surrounding words) to identify the meaning. Context may provide definitions, synonyms or
antonyms to this word, examples, etc.
- Read for meaningful purpose
After finishing reading each paragraph, ask yourself, “What is this paragraph about?” and figure out the main idea. Answer the questions after the text, if there are any. Talk back what you’ve read. Talking back will not only help you get involved with the reading, it also makes the reading more meaningful for you.
- Talking back will help you pick out parts of the reading that are important.
- It will help you ask questions.
- It will help you remember what you’ve read.
- It will also help you decide on the purpose (what the writer wants you to think about) of the reading
You can talk back by writing down ideas that the reading makes you think about.
- Picture what you read.
As you read, picture what the reading is saying. Bear the image of events, words, characters’ feelings in mind. It’s important to picture events that you’ve read about. Picturing events will help you understand the reading. You can picture events by showing the sequence and order in which they happen.
There are some ways of representation of the reading graphically:
- Make an ‘umbrella statement’. (This way is suitable for the paragraph given above) Single out the main idea of the para-
graph you’ve read, and write it on the upper surface of an umbrella. Find the ideas which support the main idea (supporting details), and present them ‘on the stick of the umbrella’. The example of mapping is presented below.
- Make a timeline.
Take out a sheet of paper, or a notebook. Draw a long line. Under the line write: BEGINNING, MIDDLE, END.
On top of the line, list what happened in the reading in a logical way. It will help you to remember the sequence of events.
- Make a Sun Map.
It’s another way to picture the reading. Make a map showing what’s important. You can do this by mapping the topic, the main
idea, and supporting details (major and minor).
Take a sheet of paper. Draw a big circle with lines coming from it. The big circle is the sun. The lines coming from it are the sun’s rays.
The main idea is a way of saying in only a few words what the whole reading is about. The main idea may work as a title for the reading. Small parts of the reading are called details. They support the main idea.
Making a sun map helps you learn how to find the main idea and details. Understanding the main idea and details will improve your reading comprehension.
So, we come to a conclusion that there are various ways which are quite effective for developing reading comprehension. Here are some implements that can be used both by teachers and students:
- Develop your outlook.
Broaden your background knowledge by reading books, newspapers, and magazines.
Become interested in world events.
- Pay attention to the structure of paragraphs.
Good writers construct paragraphs that have a beginning, middle and end. Often, the first or second sentences (topic sentences) will give an overview that helps provide a framework for adding details. Look for transitional words, phrases, and paragraphs that reveal or change the topic.
- Look for the method of organization. The material can be organized chronologically, serially, logically, functionally, spatially or hierarchical.
- Anticipate and predict.
Really smart readers try to anticipate the author and predict future ideas and questions.
If you're right, this reinforces your understanding. If you're wrong, you make adjustments quicker.
- Create motivation and interest.
Preview material, ask questions, discuss ideas with your classmates. The stronger your interest is, the greater your comprehension becomes.
- Identify the type of reasoning. Use your critical thinking skills.
Does the author use cause and effect reasoning, hypothesis, model building, induction or deduction, systems thinking? Which means does he use to grasp readers’ attention and raise their interest in the discussed issues?
Taking into account all these suggestions and study techniques, learners will sufficiently develop their reading comprehension, increase their general knowledge, and simplify the process of study.
- B. Brodcrick. Groundwork for college reading. Townsend press, 2000.
- John Langan. Ten steps to improving college reading. Townsend press, 1997.
- John Langan. Ten steps to advancing reading skills.-Townsend Press. Marlton, NJ, 1999.
- Lorraine C. Smith. Exploring content. Reading for academic success. Longman, 2004.