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Published on February 11, 2021

9 Effective Reading Strategies For Quick Comprehension

9 Effective Reading Strategies For Quick Comprehension

Whether you are a veteran at reading or just starting to get into adult reading for the first time, you know that reading isn’t quite the same as before. It might be taking you more time to process what you are reading, or maybe you’re looking to speed up your reading overall. Whatever the case may be, what’s truly blocking you from getting up to the right reading speed is the lack of a reading strategy.

I’ve been there plenty of times before, and thanks to the various reading strategies I’ll be talking about, you can devise a reading comprehension strategy to make you understand and read things faster than before.

Here are nine effective reading strategies for quick comprehension:

1. Read With a Purpose

The first strategy that I’d suggest employing is to read with a purpose. This is my go-to strategy for quick comprehension. As I’ve expressed in the past, life is very fast-paced, and reading a book allows me to slow down as I give myself fully to the book, regardless of the genre.

The reason I approach my reading this way is that if your brain is distracted or unable to process the information presented, then you’ll lose that information.

Another way you can look at this is to read with a purpose in mind. You’ll lose that information if you don’t focus on that purpose for reading.

Knowing how to read with a purpose is a matter of grouping books into three categories:

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  • Books that strengthen a skill – These books are packed with knowledge consolidated over the years that you can quickly access.
  • Books that share success stories and allow you to learn about a person’s struggles and failures – Even though your circumstances are different, reading about a big name in a field you’re interested in humanizes the process you’re going through right now.
  • Books that let you experience life in a different way than yours – These books provide profound insights into other life experiences and help you understand people on a deeper level.

By grouping books into these categories, you have a clear purpose for reading each book and processing information in that manner.

2. Previewing

I’ve read many books over the years, of course, and one thing you’ll quickly find is that many authors—in non-fiction books specifically—will talk about similar concepts. While an author’s view will be different, some concepts are consistent across the board.

This is where this strategy truly shines as this is all about previewing a text and tapping into what you already know about the subject. While a book or an article could expand your knowledge of something, this can speed up your reading time and understanding because the author is talking about something you’re already familiar with.

There’s no point in reading over something you already know, so it’s easier and faster to move on to how the author uses that information instead.

3. Predicting

Expanding from previewing, the idea with this is that you’re making predictions about what the book or article you’re about to read is like. It sets up expectations.

For example, when you read the title of this post, you expect reading strategies to make comprehension easier. You’re not expecting anything else but that.

This same concept holds true with any book you read. Of course, you’ll make adjustments to your prediction as you read through, but like previewing, you are still brushing over pieces of information that you’re already familiar with or that you expected to be there.

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4. Identifying the Main Point

Every book has a summary to entice readers, but you can provide more in-depth summarization as you’re going through chapters of a book. If you’re looking for faster comprehension of a book, you must find the main idea that the book is presenting to you. Furthermore, by putting it into your words, you’ll have a better grasp of it.

The main point of the book could also be explained in the preface section. Most non-fiction books are set-up in a way where they explain their arguing points of why something matters and why you should continue reading. From there, they’ll discuss what the book contains.

Oftentimes, the main point is in there and you can use that as a blanket statement for the rest of the book. Knowing the main point of the book allows you to put information into context. They’re explaining this concept because it ties into the main point they’re trying to convey.

This saves you a lot of time on reading since if you’re even somewhat familiar with the topic, you can gloss over information with the other methods. Furthermore, you’ll be able to retain this information better as you can describe the main point of a book in a single sentence in the future.

5. Questioning

While you are preparing to read a book, another key reading strategy is to have questions in mind. This may require you to briefly skim through the book and ask yourself questions based on what you skimmed. Questions can stem from various sentences or even the titles or headlines that authors use.

By creating questions, you then begin to focus on answering those questions. Naturally, this brings comprehension quickly as the book ought to be equipped to answer those questions.

How you go about asking these questions is up to you. You could think of them and hold onto them, or you could consider writing them on the right margin of the page where you got that question. As you read through the book, you could mention the answer on the left margin or underline the answer and note the page number underneath the question you asked.

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6. Inferring

This is all about reading between the lines—a skill that not many people have or are hesitant to use. Inferring is a reading strategy that can seem like it would backfire as people’s interpretation of something could be off from what the author intends to convey. But that’s further from the truth as inferring is a process of learning and something you can develop over time.

It’s fine if you’re wrong about things as inferring encourages more of discovering and absorbing information on a deeper level. This naturally increases your comprehension of a topic.

Inferring, in the end, is all about drawing your own conclusions. An author presents information that you can then deduce for yourself and develop all kinds of questions. What do they mean by this? How does this fit in with everything else they’ve said thus far?

Again, even if you’re wrong with the answers to those questions later on in the book, there’s still knowledge to be gained. The answers that you have created could spark new questions or understanding. And when an author presents something different from yours, then your knowledge still expands with that in mind.

If you happen to be right, then you save yourself a lengthy explanation, which cuts down on reading time and comprehension.

7. Visualizing

Visualizing covers the creative side of things and is one of the more thrilling methods of quickly comprehending something. Even if you’re reading a non-fiction book or article, visualizing is still a helpful tool.

The idea is to be crafting, drawing, or making mental images of the information that you have. If the author outlines a system for you to use, look at the various aspects of that system. Visualize yourself performing these specific actions. Things like these keep you invested in learning and understanding more since you’re using both sides of the brain to digest information.

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Visualizing also keeps you invested because it answers the question, “how is this relevant to me?” We read books because of specific emotional or personal reasons and visualizing can help you in answering that question, especially how you see it fitting in your life.

8. Monitoring/Clarifying

Stemming from inferring and predicting, monitoring/clarifying as a reading strategy is taking your deductions and comparing them to what you are actually reading. In many cases, your understanding of something can be different from what the author is stating, and from that comes a deeper understanding of the information. This can also stem from questioning strategies as you are searching for clarity in those answers.

9. Searching

The final reading strategy stems from questioning where you are looking for answers—similar to clarifying. The difference between searching and clarifying is that clarifying is designed for a general understanding.

For searching, you’re looking to find information that backs up and reinforces what you wish to be learning about. This puts you in a situation where you’re defining things that you’re uncertain about, and it allows you to solve problems that you still have with the text.

Final Thoughts

Comprehending what you’re reading involves having a system of reading strategies that you can easily tap into. Effective readers will employ several of these strategies to rapidly understand what they’re reading.

As such, I would strongly encourage you to employ these methods and experiment. Find out what works for you and develop a reading strategy that works best for you.

More Essential Reading Strategies

Featured photo credit: Seven Shooter via unsplash.com

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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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