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Reading comprehension Essay

A 1993 investigation revealed that 40 to 44 million Americans had only the most basic reading and writing skills (Kirsch, Jungeblut, Jenkins, & Kolstad, 1993). Another 50 million Americans not only lacked the skills to function successfully in a literate society, but also were not aware of their inadequacies. These statistics make it obvious that we have to look for new approaches to prepare students for the millennium, especially in light of current job market trends. The job market now demands a workforce that is more highly educated than ever. For example, assembly line workers must interpret manuals in addition to operating machinery.

These workers must be able to read, write, analyze, interpret, and synthesize information (Hay & Roberts, 1989). In summary, people just aren’t reading as much anymore and yet the need for reading, comprehension, and communication skills (verbal and written) has increased. The need is great for strengthening the following skills: Your ability to read a variety of materials (e. g. textbooks, novels, newspapers, magazines, instructional manuals). Your ability to understand and remember what you read. Your ability to effectively communicate what you’ve learned from your reading.

Motivation Is Necessary: Engaged, active readers have deep-seated motivational goals, which include being committed to the subject matter, wanting to learn the content, believing in one’s own ability, and wanting to share understandings from learning. However, most people, children and adults, do not spend any significant portion of their free time reading. Without committing time to reading, no one can gain the reading skills or knowledge they need to succeed in school, at work, or in life in general. The best way to improve your reading efficiency is to read a lot. What is Reading Comprehension?

According to Webster’s Dictionary, comprehension is “the capacity for understanding fully; the act or action of grasping with the intellect. ” Webster also tells us that reading is “to receive or take in the sense of (as letters or symbols) by scanning; to understand the meaning of written or printed matter; to learn from what one has seen or found in writing or printing. Comprehension = understanding! Identifying words on a page does not make someone a successful reader. When the words are understood and transcend the pages to become thoughts and ideas then you are truly reading.

Comprehension therefore is the capacity for understanding those thoughts and ideas. Applying what you have read and understood becomes the successful conclusion. When you comprehend what you read it like taking a trip around the world, staying as long as you like, visiting all the places you wish, and you never even have to pack a suitcase! Reading can be an escape that takes you outside the bounds of your existence. Reading is your ticket to whatever you choose to do and become. Reading is your future as well as your past. Don’t be a reader who reads without thinking or who reads without a purpose.

Comprehension Regulation: You can become an active, effective reader through comprehension regulation. This is a method for consciously controlling the reading process. Comprehension regulation involves the use of preplanned strategies to understand text. It is a plan for getting the most out of reading. It allows you to have an idea of what to expect from the text. Most importantly, it gives you techniques to use when you are experiencing difficulties. As an active reader, you can get an idea of what the writer is trying to communicate by: Setting goals based on your purpose for reading

Previewing the text to make predictions Self-questioning Scanning Relating new information to old Determining your Purpose: There are many different purposes for reading. Sometimes you read a text to learn material, sometimes you read for pure pleasure, and sometimes you need to follow a set of directions. As a student, much of your reading will be to learn assigned material. You get information from everything you read and yet you don’t read everything for the same reason or in the same way or at the same rate. Each purpose or reason for reading requires a different reading approach.

Two things that influence how fast and how well you read are the characteristics of the text and the characteristics of you, the reader. Characteristics of the text: Size and style of the type (font) Pictures and illustrations Author’s writing style and personal perspectives Difficulty of the ideas presented Characteristics of the reader: Background knowledge (how much you already know about the material or related concepts) Reading ability – vocabulary and comprehension Interest Attitude Skills for being an effective reader and for increasing comprehension are: Finding main ideas and supporting details/evidence.

Making inferences and drawing conclusions Recognizing a text’s patterns of organization Perceiving conceptual relationships Testing your knowledge and understanding of the material through application When comprehension fails, or your understanding seems limited, you can use a plan that includes: Using structural analysis and contextual clues to identify unknown vocabulary words (e. g. , look at roots, prefixes, suffixes). If this fails, keep a dictionary close by and look up words you don’t understand Reading more critically – ask questions while you read.

Summarizing or outlining main points and supporting details Rereading the material Do a “think aloud” and/or try to explain what you’ve read to someone else Although, reading means different things to different people and skills vary with every individual, reading is a skill that can be improved. Students from various backgrounds are in reading courses for a variety of reasons. Weaknesses in vocabulary, comprehension, speed, or a combination of all three may be the result of ineffective reading habits. Active reading is engaged reading and can be achieved through comprehension regulation strategies.

Levels of Comprehension The three levels of comprehension, or sophistication of thinking, are presented in the following hierarchy from the least to the most sophisticated level of reading. Least = surface, simple reading Most = in-depth, complex reading Level One LITERAL – what is actually stated? Facts and details Rote learning and memorization Surface understanding only TESTS in this category are objective tests dealing with true / false, multiple choice and fill-in-the blank questions. Common questions used to illicit this type of thinking are who, what, when, and where questions.

Level Two INTERPRETIVE – what is implied or meant, rather than what is actually stated. Drawing inferences Tapping into prior knowledge / experience Attaching new learning to old information Making logical leaps and educated guesses Reading between the lines to determine what is meant by what is stated. TESTS in this category are subjective, and the types of questions asked are open-ended, thought-provoking questions like why, what if, and how. Level Three APPLIED – taking what was said (literal) and then what was meant by what was said (interpretive) and then extend (apply) the concepts or ideas beyond the situation. Analyzing

Synthesizing Applying In this level we are analyzing or synthesizing information and applying it to other information. Strengthening Your Comprehension HOW TO STRENGTHEN YOUR COMPREHENSION 1. Analyze the time and place in which you are reading – If you’ve been reading or studying for several hours, mental fatigue may be the source of the problem. If you are reading in a place with distractions or interruptions, you may not be able to understand what you’re reading. 2. Rephrase each paragraph in your own words – You might need to approach complicated material sentence by sentence, expressing each in your own words.

3. Read aloud sentences or sections that are particularly difficult – Reading out loud sometimes makes complicated material easier to understand. 4. Reread difficult or complicated sections – At times, in fact, several readings are appropriate and necessary. 5. Slow down your reading rate – On occasion, simply reading more slowly and carefully will provide you with the needed boost in comprehension. 6. Turn headings into questions – Refer to these questions frequently and jot down or underline answers. 7.

Write a brief outline of major points – This will help you see the overall organization and progression of ideas. 8. Highlight key ideas – After you’ve read a section, go back and think about and highlight what is important. Highlighting forces you to sort out what is important, and this sorting process builds comprehension and recall. 9. Write notes in the margins – Explain or rephrase difficult or complicated ideas or sections. 10. Determine whether you lack background knowledge – Comprehension is difficult, at times, and it is impossible, if you lack essential information that the writer assumes you have.

Suppose you are reading a section of a political science text in which the author describes implications of the balance of power in the Third World. If you do not understand the concept of balance of power, your comprehension will break down. When you lack background information, take immediate steps to correct the problem: Consult other sections of your text, using the glossary and index. Obtain more basic text that reviews fundamental principles and concepts. Consult reference materials. Ask your instructor to recommend additional sources or review texts.

Organizational Patterns of Paragraphs The basic unit of thought Perhaps one of the best ways to improve your reading ability is to learn to read paragraphs effectively. Many experts believe the paragraph, not the sentence, is the basic unit of thought of a selection. If one can quickly grasp the meaning of each of these though units while reading, then comprehension will be heightened. It is important to identify with the author’s perspective by discovering the way the message is being sent. Every writer has a purpose for writing and some plan of action for getting a message across.

This plan of action is the order in which the material will be presented in the text. This order, often called a pattern of organization, should be present in acceptable writing from the smallest to the largest unit of writing: the paragraph, groups of paragraphs, sub-chapters, and chapters, groups of chapters, whole books, and even series of books. Each of these, then, contains a certain pattern of organization. Anticipating the order in which the material will be presented helps you put the facts into perspective and to see how the parts fit into the whole.

For example, if the selection begins by indicating that there are four important components of management, you are alert to look for four key phrases to mark and remember. Likewise, if a comparison is suggested, you want to note the points that are similar in nature. For material that shows cause and effect, you need to anticipate the linkage and note the relationship. The importance of these patterns is that they signal how the facts will be presented. They are blueprints for you to use. In textbook reading the number of details can be overwhelming.

The mind responds to logical patterns; relating the small parts to the whole simplifies complexities of the material and makes remembering easier. Although key signal words help in identifying the particular type of pattern, a single paragraph can be a mixture of different patterns. Your aim is to anticipate the overall pattern and then place the facts into a broad perspective. The following six examples are the patterns of organization that are most frequently found in textbooks. Simple Listing Items are randomly listed in a series of supporting facts or details.

These supporting elements are of equal value, and the order in which they are presented is of no importance. Changing the order of the items does not change the meaning of the paragraph. Signal words often used for simple listing are: in addition another for example also several a number of Description Description is like listing; the characters that make up a description are no more than a simple listing of details. Definition Frequently in textbook reading an entire paragraph is devoted to defining a complex term or idea. The concept is initially defined and then further expanded with examples and restatements.

Signal words often used for definition are: is defined as means is described as is called refers to term or concept Chronological (Time) Order or Sequence Items are listed in the order in which they occurred or in a specifically planned order in which they must develop. In this case, the order is important and changing it would change the meaning. Signal words often used for chronological order or sequence are: first, second, third before, after when later until at last next Comparison – Contrast Items are related by the comparisons (similarities) that are made or by the contrasts (differences) that are presented.

The author’s purpose is to show similarities and differences. Signal words often used for comparison-contrast are: similar, different on the other hand but however bigger than, smaller than in the same way parallels Cause and Effect In this pattern, one item is showed as having produced another element. An event (effect) is said to have happened because of some situation or circumstance (cause). The cause (the action) stimulates the event, or effect (the outcome). Signal words often used for cause and effect are: for this reason consequently on that acount hence because made Identifying Topics, Main Ideas, and Supporting Details.

Understanding the topic, the gist, or the larger conceptual framework of a textbook chapter, an article, a paragraph, a sentence or a passage is a sophisticated reading task. Being able to draw conclusions, evaluate, and critically interpret articles or chapters is important for overall comprehension in college reading. Textbook chapters, articles, paragraphs, sentences, or passages all have topics and main ideas. The topic is the broad, general theme or message. It is what some call the subject. The main idea is the “key concept” being expressed.

Details, major and minor, support the main idea by telling how, what, when, where, why, how much, or how many. Locating the topic, main idea, and supporting details helps you understand the point(s) the writer is attempting to express. Identifying the relationship between these will increase your comprehension. Applying Strategy The successful communication of any author’s topic is only as good as the organization the author uses to build and define his/her subject matter. Grasping the Main Idea: A paragraph is a group of sentences related to a particular topic, or central theme. Every paragraph has a key concept or main idea.

The main idea is the most important piece of information the author wants you to know about the concept of that paragraph. When authors write they have an idea in mind that they are trying to get across. This is especially true as authors compose paragraphs. An author organizes each paragraph’s main idea and supporting details in support of the topic or central theme, and each paragraph supports the paragraph preceding it. A writer will state his/her main idea explicitly somewhere in the paragraph. That main idea may be stated at the beginning of the paragraph, in the middle, or at the end.

The sentence in which the main idea is stated is the topic sentence of that paragraph. The topic sentence announces the general theme ( or portion of the theme) to be dealt with in the paragraph. Although the topic sentence may appear anywhere in the paragraph, it is usually first – and for a very good reason. This sentence provides the focus for the writer while writing and for the reader while reading. When you find the topic sentence, be sure to underline it so that it will stand out not only now, but also later when you review. Identifying the Topic:

The first thing you must be able to do to get at the main idea of a paragraph is to identify the topic – the subject of the paragraph. Think of the paragraph as a wheel with the topic being the hub – the central core around which the whole wheel (or paragraph) spins. Your strategy for topic identification is simply to ask yourself the question, “What is this about? ” Keep asking yourself that question as you read a paragraph, until the answer to your question becomes clear. Sometimes you can spot the topic by looking for a word or two that repeat. Usually you can state the topic in a few words.

Let us try this topic-finding strategy. Reread the first paragraph on this page – the first paragraph under the heading Grasping the Main Idea. Ask yourself the question, “What is this paragraph about? ” To answer, say to yourself in your mind, “The author keeps talking about paragraphs and the way they are designed. This must be the topic – paragraph organization. ” Reread the second paragraph of the same section. Ask yourself “What is this paragraph about? ” Did you say to yourself, “This paragraph is about different ways to organize a paragraph”? That is the topic.

Next, reread the third paragraph and see if you can find the topic of the paragraph. How? Write the topic in the margin next to this paragraph. Remember, getting the main idea of a paragraph is crucial to reading. The bulk of an expository paragraph is made up of supporting sentences (major and minor details), which help to explain or prove the main idea. These sentences present facts, reasons, examples, definitions, comparison, contrasts, and other pertinent details. They are most important because they sell the main idea. The last sentence of a paragraph is likely to be a concluding sentence.

It is used to sum up a discussion, to emphasize a point, or to restate all or part of the topic sentence so as to bring the paragraph to a close. The last sentence may also be a transitional sentence leading to the next paragraph. Of course, the paragraphs you’ll be reading will be part of some longer piece of writing – a textbook chapter, a section of a chapter, or a newspaper or magazine article. Besides expository paragraphs, in which new information is presented and discussed, these longer writings contain three types of paragraphs: introductory, transitional, and summarizing.

Introductory paragraphs tell you, in advance, such things as (1) the main ideas of the chapter or section; (2) the extent or limits of the coverage; (3) how the topic is developed; and (4) the writer’s attitude toward the topic. Transitional paragraphs are usually short; their sole function is to tie together what you have read so far and what is to come – to set the stage for succeeding ideas of the chapter or section. Summarizing paragraphs are used to restate briefly the main ideas of the chapter or section.

The writer may also draw some conclusion from these ideas, or speculate on some conclusion based on the evidence he/she has presented. All three types should alert you: the introductory paragraph of things to come; the transitional paragraph of a new topic; and the summarizing paragraph of main ideas that you should have gotten. EXERCISE: Read the following paragraph and underline the stated main idea. Write down in your own words what you are able to conclude from the information. The rules of conduct during an examination are clear. No books, calculators or papers are allowed in the test room.

Proctors will not allow anyone with such items to take the test. Anyone caught cheating will be asked to leave the room. His or her test sheet will be taken. The incident will be reported to the proper authority. At the end of the test period, all materials will be returned to the proctor. Failure to abide by these rules will result in a failing grade for this test. Making Inferences and Drawing Conclusions Read with purpose and meaning Drawing conclusions refers to information that is implied or inferred. This means that the information is never clearly stated. Writers often tell you more than they say directly.

They give you hints or clues that help you “read between the lines. ” Using these clues to give you a deeper understanding of your reading is called inferring. When you infer, you go beyond the surface details to see other meanings that the details suggest or imply (not stated). When the meanings of words are not stated clearly in the context of the text, they may be implied – that is, suggested or hinted at. When meanings are implied, you may infer them. Inference is just a big word that means a conclusion or judgment. If you infer that something has happened, you do not see, hear, feel, smell, or taste the actual event.

But from what you know, it makes sense to think that it has happened. You make inferences everyday. Most of the time you do so without thinking about it. Suppose you are sitting in your car stopped at a red signal light. You hear screeching tires, then a loud crash and breaking glass. You see nothing, but you infer that there has been a car accident. We all know the sounds of screeching tires and a crash. We know that these sounds almost always mean a car accident. But there could be some other reason, and therefore another explanation, for the sounds. Perhaps it was not an accident involving two moving vehicles.

Maybe an angry driver rammed a parked car. Or maybe someone played the sound of a car crash from a recording. Making inferences means choosing the most likely explanation from the facts at hand. There are several ways to help you draw conclusions from what an author may be implying. The following are descriptions of the various ways to aid you in reaching a conclusion. General Sense The meaning of a word may be implied by the general sense of its context, as the meaning of the word incarcerated is implied in the following sentence: Murderers are usually incarcerated for longer periods of time than robbers.

You may infer the meaning of incarcerated by answering the question “What usually happens to those found guilty of murder or robbery? ” Use the text box below to write down what you have inferred as the meaning of the word incarcerated. Top of Form If you answered that they are locked up in jail, prison, or a penitentiary, you correctly inferred the meaning of incarcerated. Examples When the meaning of the word is not implied by the general sense of its context, it may be implied by examples. For instance, Those who enjoy belonging to clubs, going to parties, and inviting friends often to their homes for dinner are gregarious.

You may infer the meaning of gregarious by answering the question “What word or words describe people who belong to clubs, go to parties a lot, and often invite friends over to their homes for dinner? ” Use the lines below to write down what you have inferred as the meaning of the word gregarious. If you wrote social or something like: “people who enjoy the company of others”, you correctly inferred the meaning of gregarious. Antonyms and Contrasts When the meaning of a word is not implied by the general sense of its context or by examples, it may be implied by an antonym or by a contrasting thought in a context.

Antonyms are words that have opposite meanings, such as happy and sad. For instance, Ben is fearless, but his brother is timorous. You may infer the meaning of timorous by answering the question “If Ben is fearless and Jim is very different from Ben with regard to fear, then what word describes Jim? ” Write your answer on the following line. If you wrote a word such as timid, or afraid, or fearful, you inferred the meaning oftimorous. A contrast in the following sentence implies the meaning of credence: Dad gave credence to my story, but Mom’s reaction was one of total disbelief.

You may infer the meaning of credence by answering the question “If Mom’s reaction was disbelief and Dad’s reaction was very different from Mom’s, what was Dad’s reaction? ” Write your answer on the following lines. If you wrote that Dad believed the story, you correctly inferred the meaning of credence; it means “belief. ” Bottom of Form Be Careful of the Meaning You Infer! When a sentence contains an unfamiliar word, it is sometimes possible to infer the general meaning of the sentence without inferring the exact meaning of the unknown word.

For instance, When we invite the Paulsons for dinner, they never invite us to their home for a meal; however, when we have the Browns to dinner, they always reciprocate. In reading this sentence some students infer that the Browns are more desirable dinner guests than the Paulsons without inferring the exact meaning of reciprocate. Other students conclude that the Browns differ from the Paulsons in that they do something in return when they are invited for dinner; these students conclude correctly that reciprocate means “to do something in return.

” In drawing conclusions (making inferences), you are really getting at the ultimate meaning of things – what is important, why it is important, how one event influences another, how one happening leads to another. Simply getting the facts in reading is not enough – you must think about what those facts mean to you. Making Generalizations A generalization is a specific kind of conclusion. All generalizations are conclusions, but not all conclusions are generalizations. A generalization is a broad statement that applies to many examples. A generalization is formed from a number of examples or facts and what they have in common.

Example: All animals that have feathers are birds. Readers recognize and evaluate generalizations made by an author. Readers make and support their own generalizations based on reading a selection. Clue words that support instruction for generalizations: all, none, most, many, always, everyone, never, sometimes, some, usually, seldom, few, generally, in general, and overall. Generalizations are statements that may include or imply ideas. Example: The climate in Mexico is generally warmer than that of the northern United States. Thoughtful readers are able to recognize generalizations.

They are able to evaluate if a generalization is adequately supported by specific facts. Instruction for this strategy may include helping students evaluate, make judgments and form opinions A judgment is an opinion about the value of an action, a character, a situation, an author’s assertions, elements of the text, etc. Thoughtful readers use their own experiences and details from the text to make judgments, form opinions, evaluate, or generalize. Questions that help students explore generalizations: Which sentences in the selection are like “big umbrella” statements: A conclusion presented by the author followed by many examples?

How many examples did the author provide for the statement…? Based on the number of examples described in the article, do you think the author made a valid generalization when he/she stated that…? What words and phrases did you find in the selection that signal generalization statements? (All, none, most, many, always, often, everyone, never, sometimes, some, usually, seldom, few, generally, in general, overall, as a general rule) The article includes the phrase, “Some of the research reveals…. ” What research was included to support the statement? What research was missing?

Is this statement… a valid generalization? How do you know? Why do you think authors write generalizations? Based on the information in the selection, what generalizations can be made? Interpreting What You Read Fact or Opinion Because writers don’t always say things directly, sometimes it is difficult to figure out what a writer really means or what he or she is really trying to say. You need to learn to “read between the lines” – to take the information the writer gives you and figure things out for yourself. You will also need to learn to distinguish between fact and opinion.

Writers often tell us what they think or how they feel, but they don’t always give us the facts. It’s important to be able to interpret what the writer is saying so you can form opinions of your own. As you read an author’s views, you should ask yourself if the author is presenting you with an established fact or with a personal opinion. Since the two may appear close together, even in the same sentence, you have to be able to distinguish between them. The key difference between facts and opinions is that facts can be verified, or checked for accuracy, by anyone.

In contrast, opinions cannot be checked for accuracy by some outside source. Opinions are what someone personally thinks or how he/she feel about an issue. Opinions by definition are subjective and relative. Defining A Fact Facts are objective, concrete bits of information. They can be found in official government and legal records, and in the physical sciences. Facts can be found in reference books, such as encyclopedias and atlases, textbooks, and relevant publications. Objective facts are what researchers seek in laboratories or through controlled studies.

Facts are usually expressed by precise numbers or quantities, in weights and measures, and in concrete language. The decisions of Congress, specific technological data, birth records, historical documents, all provide researchers with reliable facts. Since anyone can look up facts, facts are generally not the subject of disputes. However, not all facts are absolutes. Often the problem is that facts are simply not readily available – such as battles like the Little/Big Horn where all the witnesses who could give information on what happened died in the disaster.

In 1876, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Cavalry engaged in a fight with Sioux Indians along the Little/Big Horn Rivers in Montana. Custer and his entire company were wiped out; no one survived to tell what really happened. In this instance, we can only read opinions on how this disaster befell Custer. To sum up, facts can be verified in reference books, official records, and so forth. are expressed in concrete language or specific numbers. once verified, are generally agreed upon by people. Determining An Opinion Opinions are based on subjective judgment and personal values rather than on information that can be verified.

An opinion is a belief that someone holds without complete proof or positive knowledge that it is correct. Even experts who have studied the same issue carefully often have very different opinions about that issue. Opinions are often disputed, and many times involve abstract concepts and complex moral issues such as right or wrong, fairness and loyalty. Abstract concepts, because they are not easily understood, can never be defined to everyone’s satisfaction. For example, each of us holds a personal opinion about what fairness or loyalty is, about gun control and abortion, and these issues always remain a matter of opinion, not fact.

Although opinions cannot be verified for accuracy, writers should, nevertheless, back their opinions with evidence, facts, and reason – by whatever information supports the opinion and convinces the reader that it is a valid opinion. A valid opinion is one in which the writer’s support for his or her opinion is solid and persuasive, and one in which the writer cites other respected authorities who are in agreement. If a writer presents an extreme or unconvincing opinion, the reader should remain wary or unconvinced.

Writers often slip their personal opinions into a piece of writing, even when it is suppose to be a “factual” account; alert readers can identify subjective opinions by studying the writer’s language. Opinions are often expressed as comparisons (more, strongest, less, most, least efficient, but): The painter Pablo Picasso was far more innovative than any of his contemporaries. Opinions are often expressed by adjectives (brilliant, vindictive, fair, trustworthy): Ronald Reagan was a convincing speaker when he read a prepared address but was not effective at press conferences.

Opinions often involve evaluations: The excellence of her science project was a model for other students. Opinions are often introduced by verbs and adverbs that suggest some doubt in the writer’s mind: It appears she was confused. She seems to have the qualifications for the position. They probably used dirty tricks to win. Some opinions obviously deserve more attention than others do.


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