How to Improve Reading Comprehension Skills: Increase Speed and Fluency
These techniques can be applied to yourself, your students, employees and children. Of course, the purpose for reading can be a big factor in a reader's determination and motivation. Required reading in academia or in the workplace can be a challenge if the topic does not seem appealing or motivational. Casual and pleasure reading are usually with topics you have chosen and find personally interesting. Regardless, these simple techniques will not only help you retain the information they will also improve reading comprehension and eventually speed. Remember, you can apply these techniques to yourself or to those you teach or train.
Before We Begin
- Clear your mind and environment of distractions.
- Remember theReader's Purpose: Mentally prepare yourself by actively understanding why you are reading. For example—
I'm reading to learn (informative text)
I'm reading to imagine a journey (fictional text)
I'm reading to understand (biographies/autobiographies)
I'm reading to take a test (standardized tests in academia or in employment)
1. 5 W's and How
There are a variety of ways you can apply this strategy. I encourage you to be creative and customize the technique to your specific needs.
Choose your reading material. Choose an informative text or short passage.
Classroom or training room: Create large flashcards with the following words - Who, What, When, Where, How and Why.
Personal use: Create a mini bookmark with the flashcard word prompts written on it. A bookmark is a great visual cue to remember the question prompts as you read.
- Review word prompts. Show the words to your readers (or review them yourself). Tell the group that they will answer three of the six word prompts when they finish reading the paragraph. (This signals your brain to be aware of the who, what, when, where, how and why as you read. This creates instant awareness!)
- Read. Read a paragraph or two. Reading can be done orally or silently.
- Check for retention. Choose a reader to orally complete 3 word prompts of their choice. Once they choose they will then adapt the question to their reading material.
For example, say they chose Who, What and Why. The reader then completes the prompt with a suitable question that they themselves will answer.
- WHO is the main character? They answer.
- WHAT happened? They answer.
- WHY did that happen? They answer.
You will be amazed how eager your readers are to answer. Continue with the next paragraph and so forth. This technique will automatically create awareness of what is being read and the question prompts will enforce understanding. If a reader knows WHO did WHAT and WHY or HOW they did it then they can also describe WHEN or WHERE it happened. These are basically the events of plot.
4. Regular application. If you begin to apply Who, What, When, Where, How and Why when you read you will be aware and more apt to remember the content. Thus, improving reading comprehension.
5. My observations: I use this technique very OFTEN in my classroom. The interesting thing is my students still use it even when I don't apply it. We will be in the middle of reading and someone will say WHO and the class responds or WHY and they respond. This technique is also useful for reading tests. I train my struggling readers to write the 6 question prompts at the bottom of the page. They jot down answers to each prompt as they read as well as the paragraph number. This step has greatly improved their reading scores.
Why This Works
you are training yourself to look for the main events as well as the cause and effect in your reading material BEFORE you read. These steps make you an active reader instead of a reader that is not alert to the various who, what, when, where, how and why prompts.
2. Nouns and Verbs
Parts of Speech - Nouns & Verbs (similar to above, but you only need to remember two parts of speech instead of 6 question prompts)
Get back to the basics and review your nouns and verbs.
- Nouns are a person, place or thing.
- Verbs show action as well as present tense and past tense.
As you are reading simply identify the nouns and verbs. This strategy creates awareness of Person, Place and Thing (noun) as well as the action and/or tense involved (verbs). It is similar to the strategy above in the sense that the noun (person) tells you WHO it is about. The noun (place) tells you the setting (WHERE) and the noun (thing) helps identify the object discussed (WHAT). As for verbs. Verbs are action and they tell you WHAT, HOW or WHY something is happening. Verbs also identify WHEN. Therefore, if you simply apply additional focus on the nouns and verbs you pick up on quite a few details and it helps support retention of the information read.
I am not saying to only read nouns and verbs. You still read the whole text while seeking out the nouns and verbs. The strategy is to identify the nouns and verbs as a means of creating awareness and comprehension.
Improve Reading Speed and Fluency
This technique is used by educators and speech therapists to help improve word recognition, pronunciation and speed. With increased speed and fluency a reader can begin to apply greater focus on attaining reading comprehension.
Materials needed; A long word list such as Dolch or high frequency words (2 copies if using a partner), a pencil and a timer.
This activity works best with a partner. Your partner has a copy of the same list you are reading, the timer and a pencil. Read your list of wordsout loud and read them as quickly and clearly as possible. Your partner should start the timer as soon as you begin following along as you read. Your partner should stop the timer as soon as an error is made, mark the section where you stopped and record the time. Repeat the process. The goal is to improve speed AND the amount read with each attempt. (Take turns with your partner - competition can be fun and motivational - warning, may cause laughter. GOOD! Learning and improving should be fun!)
This strategy has a variety of benefits. This has been especially helpful for my ESL and Dyslexic students. It's a fun activity and my students enjoy it when I join along. Be a good sport about it - there is nothing funner than stumping a teacher!
Teaching Tip - As ELA teachers (as well as other subjects) we do quite a bit of oral reading in class. On more than one occasion you will have students that are very slow readers and they stumble across the words. The above activity would be an excellent tutoring strategy. I have seen it greatly improve their skills and confidence.
Business Tip - Perhaps you are trying to get your employees to apply certain verbiage on a sales call. Or, you want them to learn your company's Mission Statement. You can do the activity above with your customized text instead of a word list. Your employees will have a better chance of learning the company's objectives and approach through fun training sessions.
© 2011 Marisa Hammond Olivares