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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

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on April 15, 2021

9 Steps to Make Self-Regulated Learning More Effective

9 Steps to Make Self-Regulated Learning More Effective

You have probably heard of the saying, “Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.”

That old cliché gets thrown around quite a bit in educational circles, but what really goes into inspiring people to become independent, lifelong learners? Read on to learn more about self-regulated learning and how to make it more effective.

Self-Regulated Learning

One theory about teaching people how to learn is through self-regulated learning. In the broadest sense, it’s the idea that individuals should set their own learning goals and work independently and with a sense of agency and autonomy to achieve those goals. It’s the opposite of a teacher handing out a worksheet and students completing it just because the teacher told them to.

Self-regulated learning is constructive and self-directed.[1] Instead of the worksheet example, self-regulated learning involves the students setting their own learning goals, deciding how to best achieve those goals, and then systematically and strategically working toward them. Teaching strategies like the Workshop Model and Portfolios are more aligned with self-regulated learning than a one-size-fits-all worksheet or lecture.

Workshop Model

The workshop model consists of three parts. Class begins with a mini-lesson, then students spend time working independently while the teacher circulates conferencing with students. Finally, the class ends with some kind of summary derived from what students learned through their independent work.

Heavy hitters in the workshop model are Lucy Calkins and Nancie Atwell.[2][3] Their work has been instrumental in spreading best practices so that teachers know how to create truly student-led learning experiences.[4]

Portfolios

Another example of an instruction that’s moving toward self-regulated learning is student portfolios. Students set learning goals and periodically reflect on whether or not they’re achieving those goals. They keep all their reflections and student work in folders and have periodic conferences with their teacher on how they’re pressing toward their goals.[5]

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The problem though is that the workshop model and portfolios require a different mindset and skillset from teachers. That’s where the theory of self-regulated learning comes in.

3 Elements of Self-Regulated Learning

One approach to self-regulated learning is to break it down into three components: regulation of processing modes, regulation of the learning process, and regulation of self. Dividing self-regulated learning in this way helps teachers know how to best help students work toward their individual goals, and it also gives us a glimpse into how we all can become more self-regulated learners.

1. Regulation of Processing Modes

The first step in self-regulated learning is to give learners a choice in how and why they’re learning in the first place.

In our worksheet example, students are completing the task because the teacher said so, but when we reset why we’re learning in the first place, we’re starting to create a foundation for self-regulated learning.

One educational researcher, Noel Entwistle makes a distinction between three different reasons for learning, and his work makes what we’re all working toward a lot clearer. Students can try to reproduce or memorize information, they can try to get good grades, or they can seek personal understanding or meaning.[6]

The goal of self-regulated learning is to encourage students to move away from the first two learning orientations (following orders and trying to get good grades) and move toward the third, learning for some kind of intrinsic gain—learning to learn.

2. Regulation of Learning Process

The next level of self-regulated learning is when students are in charge of their own learning process. This is also known as metacognition. Studies have shown that when teachers do most of the heavy lifting—deciding what’s working and not working for each student—there’s a reduction in students’ metacognitive skills.[7]

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When I was teaching middle and high school, we had a saying that if we left the building at the end of the school day more tired than the students, we hadn’t done our job. What that means is that teachers have to find a way to get students to do the heavy lifting of metacognition—thinking about thinking. And students need to accept the challenge and become curious about what’s working and not working about their individualized and (at least, partially) self-generated learning plans.

Boosting metacognition might include learning about how the brain works, what metacognition is all about, and all the different learning styles. Becoming curious about your individual strengths and learning preferences is crucial in beefing up your metacognitive skills.

3. Regulation of Self

Finally, there’s goal setting. If students are going to become truly self-regulated learners, they have to start setting their own goals and then reflecting on their progress toward those goals.

How to Make Self-Regulated Learning More Effective

Now that you’ve learned the important elements of self-regulated learning, here are 9 ways you can make it more effective for you.

1. Change Your Mindset About Learning

The first way to become a self-regulated learner is to change your mindset about why you’re learning in the first place. Instead of doing your schoolwork because the teacher says so or because you want the highest GPA, try to move toward learning to satisfy your curiosity. Learn because you want to learn.

Sometimes, this will be easy, like when you’re learning something on your own that you’ve self-selected. Other times, it’s tougher, like when you have a teacher-selected assignment due.

Before mindlessly completing your assignment, try to find “your in.” Find what’s fascinating about the topic and cling to that as you complete it. Sure, you need to complete it to graduate, but by finding the morsel that’s interesting to you, you’ll be able to start experiencing a more self-regulated kind of learning.

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2. Explore Different Learning Styles

There are lots of different ways to learn: auditory, visual, spatial, and kinesthetic. Learn what all those styles mean and which ones feel especially effective for you.

3. Learn How Learning Works

Another great way to become a more self-regulated learner is to learn how learning works. Read up on cognitive science and psychology to figure out how we form memories, how we retain information, and how our emotions affect our learning. You have to understand the tools you’ve been given before you can wield those tools most optimally.

4. Get Introspective

Now it’s time to get introspective. Do a learning inventory and reflect on when you’ve been most and least successful in your learning.

What’s your best subject? Why? When did you lose interest in a subject? Why? Ask yourself tough questions about how you learn, so you can move forward more strategically.

5. Find Someone to Tell You Like It Is

It’s also helpful to find someone who can be honest about your learning strengths and weaknesses. Find someone you trust who will be honest about your learning progress. If you lack self-awareness about your learning style and abilities, it’s difficult to be a self-regulated learner, so work with someone else to start becoming more self-aware.

6. Set Some SMART Goals

Now it’s time to set some learning goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. They’re a great way to become a self-regulated learner.[8]

Instead of just saying, “I want to get better at Spanish,” you might set a SMART goal by saying “I want to memorize 100 new Spanish vocabulary words by next week.” Next week, you can test yourself and measure whether or not you’ve achieved your goal.

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It’s difficult to see how we’re progressing and learning when our goal is vague. Setting SMART goals gives you a clear barometer for your learning.

7. Reflect on Your Progress

Goals don’t mean much unless you measure your progress every now and then. Take time to determine whether or not you’ve achieved your SMART learning goals and why or why not you did. Self-reflection is a great way to boost self-awareness, which is a great way to become a self-regulated learner.

8. Find Your Accountability Buddies

Armed with your goals and deadlines, it’s time to find some trustworthy people to help keep you accountable. Now, your learning progress is your responsibility when you’re a self-regulated learner, but it doesn’t hurt to have some friends who know what your goals are. You can turn to this trustworthy group to discuss your learning progress and keep you motivated.

9. Say It Loud and Proud

There’s a phenomenon where we’re more likely to attain our goals when we’ve made them public.[9] Announcing our goals helps hold our feet to the fire. So, figure out a way to make your learning goals known. This might mean telling your accountability buddies, your teacher, or maybe even a social media group.

Just know that you’re more likely to succeed when you’re not the only one who knows what your goals are.

Final Thoughts

Self-regulated learning is learning for learning’s sake. So, change your entire attitude about why you’re learning in the first place. Choose what you want to know more about or start with what interests you most when assigned a topic or project.

Then, set SMART goals and periodically reflect on your progress. Self-awareness is a skill that can be practiced and improved. Make learning your job and your responsibility, and you’ll be well on your way toward becoming a self-regulated learner.

You’ll never need to blame your learning struggles on someone or something else. Instead, you’ll have the self-awareness and abilities to be able to take your learning into your own hands and find a way forward no matter your current situation and limitations.

Featured photo credit: Josefa nDiaz via unsplash.com

Reference

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