Becoming an Active Reader Study Guide (page 2)
Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:
The most important thing you can do to improve your reading skills is to become an active reader. This lesson shows you how to read carefully and actively so that you can better understand and remember what you read.
If you want to earn a high score on a video game, you need to concentrate all of your attention on the game. You need to watch the whole screen carefully and look out for what's coming up ahead. You need to look for certain clues and be able to predict what will happen. In other words, you need to be fully engaged with the game to win.
It sounds a lot like the formula for reading success.
To understand and remember what you read, you need to be involved with what you are reading. In other words, you need to be an active reader. People often think of reading as a passive activity. After all, you're just sitting there, looking at words on a page. But when you read, you should actually be interacting with the text.
Five specific strategies will help you become an active reader:
- skimming ahead and jumping back
- highlighting or underlining key words and ideas
- looking up unfamiliar vocabulary words
- recording your questions and comments
- looking for clues throughout the text
Skim Ahead and Jump Back
Skimming ahead enables you to see what's coming up. Before you begin reading, scan the text to see what's ahead. Is the reading broken up into sections? What are the main topics of those sections? In what order are they covered? What key words or ideas are boldfaced, bulleted, boxed, or otherwise highlighted?
Skimming through a text before you read helps you prepare for your reading task. It's a lot like checking out the course before a cross-country race. If you know what's ahead, you know how to pace yourself. This head start will give you an idea of what's important in the passage you're about to read.
When you finish reading, jump back. Review the summaries, headings, and highlighted information. (This includes both what you and the author highlighted.) Jumping back helps you remember the information you just read. You can see how each idea fits into the whole and how ideas and information are connected.
Finding Key Words and Ideas
In any text, some facts and ideas are more important than others. To be an active reader, you need to identify key ideas. By highlighting or underlining the key words and ideas, you'll make important information stand out. You'll also make it easier to find that information when you want to write a summary or to study for an exam.
Of course, to highlight key words and ideas, you must be able to determine which facts and ideas are most important. Ask yourself: What's the most important information to understand and remember?
Here are two guidelines for highlighting or underlining a text (you'll learn a lot more about this in the next lesson when you learn how to determine the main idea):
- Be selective. If you highlight four sentences in a five-sentence paragraph, you haven't helped yourself at all. The key is to identify what's most important in that passage. Ask yourself two questions:
- What is the author trying to say and what is the main idea of his or her passage?
- What information is emphasized or seems to stand out as important?
You can also highlight information that you find particularly interesting.
- Watch for clues that indicate an idea is important. Words and phrases like most important, the key is, and significantly signal that key information will follow. Watch for visual clues, too. Key words and ideas are often boldfaced, underlined, or italicized. They may be boxed in or repeated in a sidebar.
Look Up Unfamiliar Words
Looking up unfamiliar words is another very important active reading strategy. You need to know what the words mean to understand what someone is saying. After all, a key word or phrase can change the meaning of a whole passage.
Whenever possible, have a dictionary with you when you read. Circle and look up any unfamiliar words right away. (Circling them makes them easier to find if you lose your place.) Write the meaning in the margin. That way, you won't have to look up the meaning again if you forget it; it will always be there to refer to. (Of course, if you don't own the book, don't write in it! Instead, write down the vocabulary word and its definition in a notebook.)
If you don't have a dictionary with you, try to figure out what the word means. What clues does the author provide in that sentence and surrounding sentences? Mark the page number or write down the word somewhere so you can look it up later. See how closely you were able to guess its meaning. (You'll learn more about this in Lesson 3.)
Record Your Questions and Comments
As you read, you're bound to have questions and comments. You're also likely to have reactions to the reading. You might wonder why the author used a certain example, or you might think a particular description is beautiful. Write your questions and comments in the margin (or on a separate piece of paper if the book is not yours) using the code that follows.
Place a ? in the margin if you have a question about the text or if there is something that you don't understand.
Place a in the margin if you agree with what the author wrote.
Place an X in the margin if you disagree with what the author wrote.
Place a + if you see connections between the text and other texts you have read, or if you understand the experience being described. It may also help you to write additional notes to help you remember the connection.
Place an ! in the margin if you are surprised by the text or the writer's style.
Place a in the margin if there is something you read that you like about the text or the style.
Place a in the margin if there is something you read that you don't like about the text or the style.
This kind of note taking keeps you actively involved with your reading. It makes you think more carefully about what you read—and that means you will better understand and remember the material.
Here's an example of how you might respond to the Wind Chill Factor passage:
People have known for a long time that they feel colder when the wind is blowing. The reason for this is simple. The faster the wind blows, the faster your body will lose heat. To educate the public, scientists in Antarctica performed experiments and developed a table to give people a better idea of how cold they would feel outside when the wind was blowing. This is important because prolonged exposure to cold temperatures can be dangerous.
As you used this shorthand, you would know that:
The + next to the second line means that you remember the cold temperatures on your school ski trip last February.
The next to the fourth line means that you know that cold winds make your body lose heat.
The next to the sixth line means that you wish the author had included the table to make the point more clear.
The ? next to the ninth line means that you don't know how long is "prolonged."
- Kindergarten Sight Words List
- First Grade Sight Words List
- 10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism
- Grammar Lesson: Complete and Simple Predicates
- Definitions of Social Studies
- Child Development Theories
- Signs Your Child Might Have Asperger's Syndrome
- How to Practice Preschool Letter and Name Writing
- Social Cognitive Theory
- Curriculum Definition