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Published on January 28, 2020

How To Use Comprehension Strategies To Improve Learning

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

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on February 11, 2020

25 Memory Exercises That Actually Help You Remember More

25 Memory Exercises That Actually Help You Remember More

The brain is often thought of as similar to a computer. When the brain is powerful and working properly, it will enable you to perform all your cognitive and bodily functions smoothly and efficiently, and the reverse is also true.

Unfortunately, our brainpower tends to decline as we grow older. And as you might have seen in media reports, loss of memory and dementia is a growing concern for people today. Brain wellness is now right up there with heart health.

If you are finding yourself forgetting things more than usual, it can be a little alarming. But you need to know you are not helpless when it comes to keeping your brain healthy and powerful. There are simple brain exercises for memory improvement you can do to boost your brainpower so you remember more.

According to a 2015 study published in the journal Neurology, older adults who engage in regular physical exercise like jogging and cycling are less likely to be affected by age-related brain illnesses that can limit memory and mobility.[1] And those people who perform regular, targeted brain exercises keep their brains sharp and healthy, which reduces cognitive decline and memory impairment.

When you exercise your brain, you will also improve your creative abilities, which will give you a competitive advantage in your job.

Moreover, brain exercises strengthen your ability to think on your feet and give witty responses, meaning you won’t be lost for words at critical moments in conversations.

Goodbye to awkward silences!

While you can enroll in a number of online brain training programs, experts generally recommend sticking to brain training exercises that involve real-world activities.

According to David Eagleman, PhD, neuroscientist and assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, exercises to strengthen brain function should offer novelty and challenge:

“Almost any silly suggestion can work.”

Here’re 25 simple real-world exercises you can do starting today to sharpen your brain and improve memory.

1. Drive a New Route Home

As simple as this exercise may sound, taking a different route home stimulates the brain. You are forced to involve more senses to find your way around, which keeps your brain alert instead of mindlessly driving home or to work on familiar routes.

Avoiding ruts and boredom is critical to keeping your brain sharp, says Eagleman.

2. Repeat It out Loud

In order to remember anything you have just read, heard or done, repeat it out loud.

For example, repeat out loud the name of someone new you’ve just met and you will nail the name down in your mind.

3. Listen While You Read

A study conducted at the University of Puerto Rico found that out of 137 Spanish-speaking students quizzed about an English book they were given to read, those students who read the book while simultaneously listening to an English audio version outscored the group that only read on eight different quizzes about the book.[2]

Listen to audio of something while simultaneously reading or watching it. You’ll engage more of your senses and help your mind remember more.

4. Play Crossword Puzzles

Simple crossword puzzles and other word games like scrabble, where you rearrange letters and make as many words as you can, stimulate the brain and improve memory.

5. Play Chess

Don’t forget to play other brain-boosting, strategy games like chess and checkers. Logic-based numbers games like Sudoku can also keep your brain fit.

6. Learn a Musical Instrument

Start playing a musical instrument. Studies show that learning something new and complex over a longer period of time is beneficial for the aging mind.[3]

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7. Play a New Sport

Start playing a new sport that utilizes both mind and body, such as tennis, golf, or even yoga. Athletic exercise like these will not only improve your physical fitness, but also your mental fitness.

8. Learn a Foreign Language

Enroll in a foreign language course online or at your local education center. It will help to sharpen and rejuvenate your brain.

9. Draw a Map from Memory

When you return home from visiting a new place, draw a map of the area from memory. Expand this brain exercise by drawing maps of your commute, neighborhood and other areas to enhance memory.

10. Cook a New Cuisine

Take a cooking class. Learn how to cook new cuisines. Cooking stimulates different parts of the brain and different senses including smell, sight, and taste.

11. Do Chores with Eyes Closed

Try washing the dishes, sorting laundry or taking a shower with your eyes closed. This will force your brain to use other neural pathways to get the task done.

Obviously, don’t do anything with your eyes closed that would endanger others or yourself.

12. Eat a Meal Using Chopsticks

Chopsticks will force your brain to pay attention and give your brain a good workout, especially if you have never used them before to eat.

13. Switch Hands When Doing Stuff

If you are right-handed, try using your left hand to do things like brushing your teeth and eating.

For example, if you are already good at using chopsticks to eat, use your non-dominant hand instead to challenge your fine-motor skills that are controlled by the nervous system consisting of the brain.

14. Connect with New People

Every time you connect with other people, you expose yourself to new ideas and other ways of thinking and doing things. This stimulates your mind and widens your world view and thinking process.

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So, be open to traveling more and attending shows and events to meet and interact with new people. It’ll keep your mind in tip-top shape.

15. Savor Different Flavors in Meals

Challenge your taste buds by deliberately savoring your meals. Try to identify the individual ingredients in food, including subtle spices and herbs for a tasteful burst of mental stimulation.

16. Do Math in Your Head

Don’t always rush to use a pen and paper, or a calculator to figure out math problems. Try to do them in your head. Make things a little bit more interesting by working out math problems in your head while also walking.

17. Practice Meditation

Training your mind to be quiet is not always easy, but it can be done through meditation.

Some of the benefits of practicing meditation include stress reduction, improved learning ability, increased focus and attention, enhanced memory and mood, and also reversal of brain atrophy.

18. Memorize Phone Numbers

By memorizing people’s names and phone numbers, you strengthen connections between your brain cells, which can make a big difference for your memory.

Divide 10-digit numbers into sections, such as 801 665 9378 to make it easier remember. It is arguably easier to remember 801 665 9378 than 8016659378.

19. Take up a Craft Hobby

Craft hobbies like knitting, drawing and painting are now getting more attention for their brain-boosting powers.[4]

Take up any craft hobby of your choice to strengthen your fine-motor skills and boost your brainpower.

20. Tell Stories

Telling stories stimulates the brain through recalling and recounting important details. It also helps you remember events and associate emotion with memories.

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Storytelling is so good for memory it is used to improve the lives of people with in Alzheimer’s disease.[5]

21. Create New Acronyms

Come up with your very own clever acronyms whenever you need to memorize something in a hurry.

Creating original acronyms or mnemonic phrases, where you use the first letters of words within a phrase to form a name, can sharpen your brain and assist in remembering more.

22. Visualize What You Want to Remember

Let’s say you want to remember to buy an item you need from the supermarket. Picture the items on your shopping list balancing on parts of your body.

For example, imagine balancing an egg on your nose, a bottle of milk on your head or a package of cheese on your shoulder. It’s fan and you won’t forget that image.

23. Vary Aspects of Your Surroundings

Vary things like the music in the background, time of day and whether you sit or stand when doing something to increase recall.

The theory is that the brain associates words (or whatever you are doing) to the context or environment around you. The more contextual cues you provide your brain, the more it has to draw upon when trying to remember specific things.

24. Space out Your Learning Sessions

Cramming is not always the best way to learn or remember things. Instead, review the information you want to learn or remember (statistics, foreign vocabulary, historical dates, scientific definitions, and so on) periodically over time. By spacing out your study sessions throughout the day, you learn more. Learn more about the technique here: How to Use Spaced Repetition to Remember What You’ve Learned

Psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered that he could learn a list of nonsense words if he repeated them 68 times in one day and seven more times before being tested the next day.

25. Sleep on It

Get enough shut eye each night. The brain needs six to eight hours of sleep, or at least two cycles of deep sleep each night to complete the necessary chemical changes needed to integrate new skills and information into long-term memory.

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Remember, your brain thrives on variety to keep those synapses firing. Exercising your brain with activities that are challenging, novel, and complex will help you to remember more and keep your brain fit.

More Brain Exercises

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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