Imagine that you are on a ship headed to Spain. Everything is going along fine, so you think, but you find out that the captain accidentally entered the directional course at 44° instead of 45°. Your arrival day comes but instead of arriving in Spain, you arrive in France. That mistake, that small 1° variance has caused you to go off course and totally miss your destination.
So what does that have to do with reading comprehension? When you are off course by just 1°, reading comprehension can be hard for you. But, just changing by 1° can get you back on course to being able to comprehend what you read with ease.
What do you need to do to make that 1° change? Learning and implementing the 3 colossal comprehension clues to being a successful reader is all you need to do to make that 1° change and you will be a successful reader who truly understands what you’ve read.
Comprehension is all about utilizing what you read, not just regurgitating (memorizing and spitting out), what you read. True learning happens when you use what you read. You use what you read when you think about what you’ve read and then do something with it. Because it is critical to use what you read to really comprehend, it is critical that you write – take notes or draw pictures – while you read. Writing is the doing part of thinking. You can’t write without thinking.
The 3 Colossal Comprehension Clues in a Nutshell:
1. Improve Comprehension Through Note Taking Easily
2. Improve Comprehension By Knowing What to Listen For in Lectures
3. Improve Comprehension Through The Magic of Color-coding
Clue I: Improve Comprehension Through Note Taking Easily
Do you take really good notes or do you miss the important parts of a reading assignment? Do you ever read over your notes and wonder why in the world you wrote that note and missed the important part of the reading assignment? Were you just writing anything down so you could say you were finished? Did you even think about it?
There are specific ways to write notes from what you read or listen too. For example, everything you read will either have a beginning, middle, and end (narrative) or be informational (expository). Take your notes accordingly. You can use graphic organizers like those in Ten Minutes to Better Study Skills to make note taking extremely easy because it is just fill-in-the-blank. Most textbooks typically have the same basic format, so understand and utilize the format and you will improve your note-taking skills.
Textbooks have main topics, sub-topics and highlighted words. Use these categories in your notes. If something is bolded it is important! So when you are taking notes, write down the topic, the sub-topic and highlighted words. Then define the highlighted words (Hint: The definition will be in the words either right after the highlighted word or right before it.) Then write the next sub-topic down and its highlighted words. If you do that for the whole chapter you will be able to answer the questions at the end of the chapter with a minimum of 70% accuracy and you will have a study guide to use when you are preparing for a test. If you want 90% to 100% on your tests, read the chapter in addition to taking the notes.
Clue II: Improve Comprehension While Listening to Lectures
When you are taking notes from a lecture, think in the same terms as when you read. Write down the main topic the presenter is talking about and then write down the sub-points and any important specific detail that the presenter mentions. You can even use the same graphic organizer. If dates, numbers, people, or terms are mentioned, write them down with what they are connected too. Those are important! Think in terms of who, what, where, when, how, and why. You can also add size, shape, number, color, background, movement, mood, perspective, and sound.
Clue III: Improve Comprehension Through The Magic of Color-coding
Brain studies have shown that simply using color will improve retention by 25% so use different colored pens, pencils, or highlighters. You can also use removable highlighter tape. Highlight in the margin of your notes using different colors for different types of topics. For example, highlight in blue people and what they are connected to. Highlight places in red. Highlight dates in orange. You can place a green stripe next to the beginning section of a selection, a yellow stripe for the middle section, and a red stripe for the ending. The use of colored stripes will make it easier for you to remember what happened at the beginning, middle, and end of a selection.
Bonus Tip: Practice Visualizing What You Read
Visualizing what you read is not daydreaming. Visualizing is making pictures in your mind that go with what you read or are listening too. When you make pictures in your mind while you read and then color-code them into a simple sketch you will improve your ability to use what you read or listen too. These pictures or sketches may even look like doodles, but if you do them consciously, placing colors or shapes for particular points that are being made you will retain and then be able to use the information more readily.
The brain thinks in pictures and colors so use the graphic organizer for your notes. Color code specific points- joining the connections with color, write the information in your own words. That is the key to success! Writing is the doing part of thinking. Making pictures or using the fill-in-the-blank graphic organizer forms with color will magnify the results and your comprehension will rapidly improve. You can see that a few simple changes, implementing the 3 colossal clues to reading comprehension success, the 1° shift can really make a difference. In fact, that 1° shift using the 3 clues to colossal comprehension can truly turn you into a successful reader that comprehends well. See an example of a text-book note taking graphic organizing form from Ten Minutes to Better Study Skills and see bonus videos.
Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET, is the author of Five Minutes To Better Reading Skills, Ten Minutes To Better Study Skills and numerous others books and reading games. She is a Board Certified Educational Therapist and Internationally recognized as America’s Leading Learning Specialist and the founder of BonnieTerryLearning.com. Terry is an expert in identifying students’ learning disabilities/learning difficulties. She is also host of Learning Made Easy Talk Radio that airs every Sunday morning. Ms. Terry coaches teachers and parents so they can give their child a 2 – 4 year learning advantage in just 20 minutes a day. She is a frequent media guest and speaker.