When you were in school, did you ever find yourself at the end of a textbook chapter but you couldn’t remember how you got there? Sure. We all have. It sort of feels like time skipped a few minutes; usually it just means you zoned out.
Parents, almost every student with whom we’ve ever worked has had this experience. It’s fairly common. Unfortunately, most students confess to the same solution to the problem: turning the page and moving forward.
We call this reading for “completion, not comprehension.” And it’s a grade killer.
With the amount of reading that students need to do, both reading comprehension and speed are highly important. But lower reading comprehension among teens is a common issue for multiple reasons. Adlit.org identifies four main areas that comprehension problems tend to show up in older students:
“difficulty monitoring their own understanding while reading, difficulty making sense of unfamiliar content, difficulty making sense of specialized terms and concepts, and difficulty making sense of familiar words used in specialized or unusual ways.”
If you want to help your student excel academically, a big area you can help is finding ways to help your student boost his or her reading comprehension. Try these three tips to fight against some of the common comprehension hurdles students face and help your student read more effectively this school year.
1. Encourage your student to always start a textbook chapter at the back
In our online study skills courses we teach students a strategy we call “reading backwards.” It’s fairly simple. The basic strategy is read the review material at the end before actually reading the chapter. It’s a pre-reading strategy that sort of primes the engine of retention and comprehension.
Sometimes students are worried it will take them extra time to do this. Initially it might.
In the long-run, though, they will get to the point that reading backwards is such a second nature activity that they’ll find that their reading comprehension and speed both go up. Find out more about this strategy in this blog post
2. Have your student read their textbook chapter with a note card
Specifically, have your student cover the previously read information with that note card. This seems counter-intuitive, I know. But it’s an old speed reading trick that trains your mind to read for comprehension.
Sometimes we don’t read closely because we know we can go back and pick up any info we missed. Covering that info trains your mind to learn it the first time through.
3. Encourage your teen to take notes as they read
Studies have proven note-taking immediately improves retention by 20-25%. That’s it – just take notes and you’ll recall more later on.
But let’s be honest. Most teenagers don’t want to spend the extra time to take notes.
That’s normal. It does take extra effort. But this is a case of a little extra work now will make a big difference later on. Note-taking is a primary way students can easily improve comprehension of the most important concepts in a chapter. If they’re struggling to get started, encourage your students to write down one comment from each heading and subheading after reading the section. That alone is a great start.
If you have additional tips, we’d love to hear from you on social media. This is a big topic with lots of room for conversation.