Institute of Reading Development
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Comprehension Techniques


Previewing material before beginning to read allows students to get the most out of their reading. Previewing builds comprehension by helping students recognize main ideas and anticipate what’s coming next. It also helps readers decide which strategies to use, as well as what they need to read and what they can skip. Sometimes, readers may even decide that they have gained enough information from the preview and don’t need to read at all.

Students learn different ways to preview material, depending on their reader’s purpose and the features of the material. All previews have in common looking at information at the beginning of the reading, such as the introduction, as well as information at the end of the reading. Depending on the level of detail a reader needs, it may also be helpful to look at the material in the middle of the book or article. Any time students preview, they look for information about the book’s subject, the author’s purpose, and how the author has organized the information to accomplish his or her purpose.

Reporting Techniques

Reporting techniques help students keep track of and recall information as they read. Students use these techniques to actively work through authors’ ideas and put them into their own words, either orally or by taking notes. When they do this, students are better able to identify main ideas and follow complex trains of thought. In addition, talking about or writing down what they have read helps students lock information into their memory. Reporting techniques also help readers stay focused and provide opportunities to check and make sure they understand what they’re reading.

Note-Taking Techniques

Taking notes is an important part of reading smarter. Note-taking builds comprehension, since condensing information into clear, concise notes helps students understand the information. It also helps them stay focused when working in dense and/or dry material. Note-taking improves recall because actively thinking about and writing down information helps students remember it better. Finally, notes give students a resource to use for studying. If they take good notes they don’t have to reread the entire text.

Students learn several approaches to taking notes, including how to effectively take notes in the book, and how to create useful notes in list and outline form. The key to taking good notes is using an active approach. Before taking notes, students think about why they are taking them. Do they need to learn facts and information for a test? Understand the author’s ideas? Learn a new skill?

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