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How To Use Comprehension Strategies To Improve Learning

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How To Use Comprehension Strategies To Improve Learning

From a young age, we learned the essential skills of reading. This is a skill that we often don’t think much of, especially around the subject of comprehension strategies for adults.

You’d think it’s rather weird at first. Adults all across the world are fully capable of reading anything. We’ve been doing that for decades.

But there is a massive difference between reading comprehension amongst children and adults you see. It’s something that hasn’t been explored much in science. You can tell by the number of studies out there discussing kid’s reading abilities rather than adults.

This lack in studies though, is a good enough reason to look into what kind of strategies exist for adults. As I said, an adult’s need for reading comprehension is different. It’s not so much as learning how to read but how to use the information we have, process it effectively, and leverage it.

What Are Comprehension Strategies?

Because adults are focused on processing information and leveraging it, our comprehension strategies tend to be more focused on the surrounding areas rather than internal. That being said, there are some strategies that focus on how we are reading too.

I’ll get to those further down this article, but here are some external comprehension strategies to try out:

Place Yourself In A Distraction-Free Environment

There is a lot of noise going on around us these days. From TVs, our phone, music, and other distractions. The key with this strategy is to create a reading and learning environment that’s suitable for you.

For most people, that’s one without distractions.

But what if you can’t remove all the distractions?

Simple. Some alternatives are going somewhere else. Consider going to the library, a study room, or even the bathroom. You can also listen to classical or ambient music. This muffles sounds and music without lyrics can help you with concentrating more.

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Having Someone Smarter Read With You

Let’s face it, we’re not all-knowing. There are people who are smarter than us. Maybe not in the area of reading, but the person may have read the book or is further along in life with experience and understanding.

This is what I mean by reading comprehension with adults. It’s not so much that we don’t know how to read, but rather, it may be tougher for us to take concepts from articles or books and apply them.

If you’ve got someone like a mentor, teacher, friend or parent, who has experience in this field, don’t hesitate to rely on them.

How we comprehend information varies from person to person. No matter what though, keep the following in mind should you use this strategy:

  • If you are there to support in any way, be sure to give them questions. If you’re the one asking, you can always ask them to do this too. Comprehension isn’t just reading, but using the information.
  • If you’re supporting, it pays to be able to explain things briefly. If you can summarize chapters or the whole book into key lessons that’s good.

Reading Out Loud

Reading out loud slows you down while reading. We focus more on pronouncing our words. We also process what we are reading more so when doing this.

Reading out loud also activates the parts of our brain that learns visually and through audio. It does this because we are seeing the words plus hearing them spoken aloud.

If you find yourself benefiting from this, I’d suggest looking into audiobooks. While there is no visual side to them, the audio could help. You can also look into narrated books that have audio and visual learning aspects.

Re-Reading

Sometimes, we don’t always process everything in one sitting. Or maybe there was something that’s brought up later that you don’t understand and need to go back to previous lines to grasp it.

In some other cases, we read through a page or a paragraph and can’t even grasp what was said.

Regardless, don’t be afraid to go back through and re-read it. Perhaps read it out loud. That or slow down your reading. Keep re-reading until you understand what’s going on.

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As you can tell, reading comprehension is simple at its core, but not everyone can leverage them right off the bat.

How Can I Leverage Comprehension Strategies?

Knowing those strategies is one thing, but leveraging is something else. Regardless, because reading comprehension is still a skill, we can improve it through various methods.

1. Dedicate Yourself To Reading

It’s a given that you want to be spending some time to reading. It’s recommended for starters to devote two to three hours to reading per week.

Not only that, but you want those hours to be part of a good reading session. Wat this means is that your reading is guided and relaxed.

Guided in the sense that there is structure and focused attention. You want to be expanding your vocabulary and quizzing yourself on what you’re reading.

Relaxed is being in a position where you can enjoy what you’re reading. Think back to the calming environment I mentioned above.

2. Understand and Re-evaluate How You Read Right Now

If it’s been a long time since you’ve picked up a book, this might be tougher to do. Then again, you do have to start somewhere.

What this strategy focuses on is encouraging you to read from different texts. Specifically, texts that you’re not familiar with.

Information is presented in many different formats. What you read in the newspaper is going to be written differently on a stand-alone website or on a blog. The same applies to textbooks as well.

This isn’t to say that certain mediums have superior written content, but rather, they demand different levels of comprehension.

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The key to this strategy is to go into unfamiliar territory and read that way. Challenge your existing notions and preferences for reading and mix things up. But only do so for a short period of time.

Start off with reading 20 minutes from that and push to increase the time little by little. Maybe next time devote 22 minutes of your few hours to reading from it.

3. Expand Your Vocabulary

While the previous strategy can help with this, you don’t need to be using different reading mediums to expand your vocabulary. At the end of the day, reading comprehension stems from context, the interaction of words, and vocabulary. It’s through these three things we understand what we are reading.

Expanding your vocabulary is pretty easy. You can purposely pick a word from the dictionary and learn it and apply it every day. Or if what you are reading has a word you don’t understand, write it down.

The goal is to have a running list of words you don’t immediately recognize. From there, you can make flashcards to help you memorize them.

4. Read for the Joy of It

While many of us read for work or for growth, there is merit to reading for pleasure. This is a good strategy because sometimes, we get so wrapped up in reading for growth that we can start to see reading as a chore.

Remember, reading should always be for the fun of it.

With this in mind, some things you can do for this are:

  • Reading a book that is below your grade level. Sure you won’t be learning much, but the key here is to relax and enjoy the book.
  • Pick out fiction books. Authors in these genres focus on entertaining written content as opposed to content where you are learning.

5. Stay Curious

The last strategy I’ll mention is to have curiosity. Learning stems from us wanting to know something that we do not know. Whenever we google something or read an article, it’s because we don’t know that information.

Although people are quick to do that, I would suggest stretching your curiosity further. Not only focusing on new words but new pieces of information.

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Being curious is more like a mindset than anything else, but it does lead to us seeking answers and thus reading and learning.

Here’s How to Create a Habit of Continuous Learning for a Better You.

Bonus: Speed Reading for Better Comprehension

One other strategy that I want to be touching on is speed reading. This is one of the comprehension strategies that some may have heard over the years. It’s the strategy behind how some people can read a book a day or read 50 plus books in the span of a year.

While this may not be your goal to read that much, being aware of the technique and using it can help you in extracting and learning faster than before.

Open Colleges explains this strategy in detail in an article,[1] ere is a simple version:

  • Don’t subvocalize. We were taught in school to read each word one by one. Instead, focus on letting your eyes glide through the words. How you can do this is through humming or counting in your head.
  • Read words in clusters. The next step is getting your eyes to focus on three or four words at a time. The idea is grouping everything important. What it boils down to is getting rid of filler words like and, a, an, the, etc.
  • Don’t backtrack. I said above that re-reading helps. It does, but it helps for those who want to read slowly. For speed readers, this is more time lost.
  • Focus on skimming. With so much content out there, we’ve become masters of skimming. Some of us may not realize it is all. Either way, make sure you are skimming, which is focusing on parts that are important to you.
  • Read plenty. This is a given but worth bringing up.

You can check out this article to learn how to read faster: How to Read Faster: 10 Ways to Increase Your Reading Speed

Final Thoughts

Reading may not be at the forefront of everyone’s mind, but the key to growth is through the information that’s put out there today. The better and faster we can take information, extract, learn, and apply it, the more we will grow.

As such, taking these comprehension strategies and leveraging them can help us tremendously. Even considering taking up speed reading can help you out too.

Pick up a book now and start reading!

More Tips on Learning Fast

Featured photo credit: Thought Catalog via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on August 11, 2021

23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

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23 Killer Sites for Free Online Education Anyone Can Use

Whether you’re five or ninety five, the internet has a lot to offer. Particularly when the topic is education, the resources on the internet are endless. Best of all, many high quality sites are completely free. From history to coding, excellent, free online education awaits on the following 23 sites.

1. Coursera

Coursera is a website that partners with universities and organizations around the world. This brings a wide variety of topics and perspectives to one searchable database.

Coursera is a powerful tool for free online education and includes courses from many top universities, museums and trusts. This gives the site an extremely wide range of in-depth courses.

Coursera is extremely useful if you’re looking to study many different topics, or want courses from different schools and groups. However, the free courses are now quite limited, so you’ll have to

2. Khan Academy

Partnering with many post secondary schools, Khan Academy offers a useable, well-organized interface. Also curating many courses from around the web, Khan Academy offers impressive depth on many different subjects.

Among the more well-known educational sites, Khan Academy is also incredibly user-friendly, which may make it easier to keep learning goals. If you’re looking for a free online education, you can’t go wrong with Khan Academy.

3. Open Culture Online Courses

If you are struggling to find exactly the material you are looking for, try Open Culture’s listing of free online education courses. The page highlights 1000 lectures, videos, and podcasts from universities around the world.

The site features a lot of material found only on universities’ private sites, all in easy-to-browse categories. This means you can find hundreds of university courses without having to visit and search each university’s site.

Open Culture’s list features courses from England, Australia, Wales, and many state universities around the United States. It’s a very helpful resource for finding many courses in one area of study.

4. Udemy 

Udemy’s free courses are similar in concept to Coursera’s but additionally allows users to build custom courses from lessons.

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Working with many top professors and schools, the site mixes the customizable platform of other sites with a heavy emphasis on top-quality content. This is another site, however, that mixes free and paid content.

5. Lifehack Fast Track Class

Lifehack believes in skills that multiply your time, energy, and overall quality of life.

In this rapidly changing world, traditional education skills just don’t cut it anymore. You can’t afford to take years learning a skill you’ll never really practice. Besides offering some paid courses that will help you become a better self, it offers a list of free courses which aim to train some of the Core Life Multipliers including:

These are cross-functional skills that work across many aspects of life.

6. Academic Earth

Another site with courses from many different schools is Academic Earth. Much like the three sites above, Academic Earth brings together top notch courses from many different sources and focuses on offering a wide variety of subjects.

Academic Earth lists courses by subject and school, so it might be easier to find what you’re looking for.

7. edX

Another great option for free online education is edX. Also bringing together courses from many different schools, the site has impressive, quality information for everyone. edX covers a great range of topics from universities such as Harvard, MIT, and Berkeley, meaning a high-quality, free online education is entirely possible here.

8. Alison

Unlike the previous sites on this list, Alison is a free education site offering certification in some areas. Alison offers courses mainly in business, technology, and health, but also includes language learning courses.

It’s a great option if users need a professional certificate for their learning, as Alison also offers school curriculum courses.

9. iTunesU Free Courses

A very convenient place for free online education is iTunesU, because it integrates seamlessly with your iPod or any app-ready Apple mobile device. On an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch, users download the iTunesU app.

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Desktop users can access iTunesU on the upper right hand corner of the iTunes Store. iTunesU is also convenient because the store is categorized much like iTunes.

Users can search learning materials in many different ways, including by genre and topic. However, courses are often a mix of free podcasts or videos and paid content.

iTunesU does include courses on a variety of topics, but it does not integrate with Android, Google or Windows mobile devices.

10. Stanford Online

Your hub for all the online offerings from Stanford University, Stanford Online offers self-paced and session-based courses. While Coursera features some courses from Stanford, many classes are only available via other hosts. Some courses require iTunes, but most are completed in your web browser.

Stanford Online is a great site for high-quality courses, though the topics are somewhat limited compared to sites partnered with more than one school. If you’re looking for free courses, make sure to mark the “free” option on the left-hand side.

11. Open Yale Courses

Open Yale Courses echoes Stanford Online, in that it offers only courses from Yale. While the site is similarly limited to topics taught at the school, Open Yale Courses offers a lot of videos of actual campus lectures. The availability of videos makes the site a great option if you’re looking for quality courses but learn better by watching than by reading.

12. UC Berkeley Class Central

Much like the other schools on this list, UC Berkeley has a variety of free online education options. The school has slightly fewer courses than the schools above, but it includes some supplementary lectures, webcasts, and RSS Feeds, making it easy to keep up with the topics you choose.

13. MIT OpenCourseWare

Similarly, MIT offers a variety of free courses. The school has a comparable number of courses to the schools above, and it includes very in-depth course materials on the subjects available. MIT also offers free RSS feeds, a convenient way to continue learning.

14. Carnegie Mellon Open Learning Initiative

Carnegie Mellon’s free online education site is comparable with the other school’s on this list. However, Open Learning Initiative also covers a smaller range of topics, but for the topics that are covered, impressive, in-depth material is available.

15. Codecademy

Codecademy is a website dedicated specifically to teaching coding. Where other coding sites follow an example/practice session workflow, Codecademy includes a live practice window. This means you can practice coding while still viewing the lesson material.

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The courses at Codecademy are well-written and easy to follow, and the website is organized very nicely. Codecademy features a centralized dashboard where you can monitor your progress, and it organizes lessons into complete modules. This lets you learn an entire language without needing to pick the next course manually.

16. Code

Code is another website focused on coding and app writing. A site with high-quality courses, Code also features learning options for kids.

In addition to kid-friendly courses, Code offers free online education classes on a wide variety of technology topics. These classes include app writing, robotics, and Javascript.

Most of the courses are also geared in a such a way that they can be useful in a classroom setting. This makes Code a great resource for harder to find coding topics, as well as various learning settings.

17. University of Oxford Podcasts

The University of Oxford features many different podcasts. Most are public lecture series or lectures from visiting professors, with several different recordings available.

The advantage to this particular site is that podcasts are organized into series, making it easy to subscribe to multiple lectures on one topic. This is another great site for thoroughly in-depth lectures.

18. BBC Podcasts

For the more casual learner, the BBC offers a wide variety of podcasts on many different topics. Most podcasts are updated weekly and focus on everything from finance, to sports, to current events.

Through the World Service line of podcasts, there are also many in different languages. The focus of these podcasts are less in-depth and theory based, which may be more accessible to the average person.

19. TED-Ed

Another great destination for more general learning and free online education is TED-Ed. From the same people that brought you the all-encompassing, motivational web series comes a site chocked full of educational videos. Most include impressive animation, and all are ten minutes long or less.

Not only is TED-Ed an excellent site for the curious, but it also includes supplemental materials and quizzes on the videos. This makes the site extremely useful in formal education settings, as well as in entertaining ways to brush up on new discoveries and topics.

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20. LessonPaths

LessonPaths is another great tool for those looking for a more usable and convenient way to access learning material. On this site, users create link playlists of their favorite learning materials from other sites. Users then rank these collections, making it easy to find many different high-quality, accessible sources on a given topic.

21. Memrise

Another impressive free online education site offering ease of use and convenience is Memrise. Available both on desktop and as an app, Memrise is a particularly powerful tool if you are studying a language. The site encompasses many other topics as well, though some of the course material is user generated content.

Part of what makes Memrise special is their integration of games into the learning materials, mixing learning with entertainment.

22. National Geographic Kids

The kids site for National Geographic is another site that makes free online education applicable for younger users. For those looking for kid-friendly education, a large variety of games, puzzles, videos and photos keep kids interested on this site.

National Geographic Kids doesn’t organize learning into courses, making materials available by topic and medium instead. This makes National Geographic Kids a good option for those looking for a more casual learning environment.

23. Fun Brain

Fun Brain is another great option for kids looking for free online education, as it focuses on games and fun puzzles. Particularly focused on math and reading, Fun Brain’s game-based approach can be valuable if the child in question struggles to pay attention.

Fun Brain offers rewards and challenges as well, and it is another site aimed at a casual learning experience for kids K-8.

The Bottom Line

With so many amazing free online education resources, everyone has the ability to boost their skills and knowledge. Whether you’re interested in picking up some interesting trivia for your next party, improve your resume with some coding or business skills, or become a more well-rounded person, these resources are perfect for you.

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Featured photo credit: Dai KE via unsplash.com

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