I could write an essay on reading strategies. None of you would probably read it, though, so I won’t. There are 2 things you need to know about reading strategies: (1) the strategies you find useful will depend on your language level; and (2) these reading strategies will be like reading strategies you use in your native language – but you probably won’t think about using them. Don’t ask me why, it’s just the way language learners work.
Let’s look at some good reading strategies regardless of level:
1. Read the title. I’m always amazed at how many learners completely skip the title and subtitle to an article, essay, or short story. These tell you so much about the contents! Then ask yourself: What do I know about this topic? This helps get you thinking about the material and vocabulary. It takes 15 seconds. Seriously. I timed learners doing it. Actually, only half of them did it. After I stopped the students, only half of the class knew what the material was about. Guess which half? Read the title and subtitle.
2. Preview. Quickly skim through the material. What is this mostly about? Does it confirm your thoughts from the title? Previewing also allows you to quickly see where you may need to spend more time working with unknown vocabulary or complex grammar.
3. Summarize. When you get to the end of whatever it is you’re reading, write down 1 sentence that summarizes what you just read (either in your first or second language depending on your level). Or, if you enjoy drawing, draw a simple sketch of what the material was about. After you’ve summarized, write down the 3-5 new vocabulary words that were important to be able to understand the piece. Do this right next to your summary.
4. Review. Tomorrow morning when you get up, go back and look at that summary (see #3 above) and those 3-5 new vocabulary words. Amazingly you’ll remember the majority of what you read.
Now you have 4 excellent reading strategies for language learners! There are many more (especially between steps 2 & 3 above), but these four are easy and effective!
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