How to become a better Reader

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<ul><li>1.Becoming a better readerThe importance of readingReading is an extremely important skill. It is by reading that you learn much of what you need to knowfor your different school subjects. Reading is also an excellent way to improve your general English.You can only learn from reading, however, if what you read is not too difficult. For this reason, it isimportant to know what makes texts difficult and how you can improve your chances of understandingthem.What makes texts difficult to understandMost of your reading difficulties will be caused by a problem on the list below. Of course, when two ormore of these problems happen together, your chances of understanding will be even smaller.many unknown wordslong, complicated sentencesa topic you know nothing abouta topic you find boringfeeling tiredbeing distractedsmall print, long paragraphs, no picturesbad writingHow to understand more of what you readYou can do nothing about some of the reading difficulties: for example, you cannot change the print ina book or make poor writing better. But there are many things you can do that will give you a betterchance of understanding what you read. Here are some suggestions:Know your reading purpose - The way you read a book or a text depends very much on yourreasons for reading it. This is why it is so important to know your reading purpose. You should read aquestion in your math exam differently from an entry in an encyclopaedia which you are looking atquickly to find out the date of an event. The kind of reading you do in class or for your homework isdifferent from how you read a novel for pleasure in the summer vacation.A common mistake of students is to read everything very slowly and carefully, looking up everyTeaching Notes : Reading 1</li></ul><p>2. unknown word. Occasionally this is necessary - for example, when reading exam questions. But ittakes a long time, and it can even make understanding more difficult. Often it is better to use one of thefollowing quick reading methods:Skimming - this is reading a text quickly to find out what information it contains. You should skimwhen, for example, you want to check if a text has the information you need to answer some questionsor write a project.Scanning - this is reading quickly to find a specific piece of information. You should scan when, forexample, you are looking for the answer to a question which you know is in the text.If you know your reading purpose - perhaps by looking first at the questions you must answer afterreading - you can choose the best reading method.Get background information - Find something out about the topic you have to read.The more background information you have, the easier it will be to understand the text. You can getthis background information background in your own language. For example, if you are studying theItalian Renaissance, you could read an encyclopaedia or textbook in your own language to find out themost important details about this historical period. Your parents may also be able to give you usefulbackground information. Talk to them in your language.You can sometimes get background information from the text itself. Many writers include a conclusionor summary; if you read this first, it may give you a good start.Use all the information in the book - Good textbooks are well-organised, with titles, sub-titles, introductions, summaries or conclusions. Many books also have pictures with captions. Look atall these first before starting to read.Another aspect of good writing is that each paragraph has a topic sentence. A topic sentence is asentence, usually the first one in a paragraph, that contains the main idea of the paragraph. If youconcentrate on understanding the topic sentence, this may help you to understand what comes next.Increase your vocabulary - Of course, reading itself is an excellent way to improve yourvocabulary, but there are many other things you can do. The better your vocabulary, the easier you willfind your reading.Use your dictionary sensibly - Its not a good idea to look up every new word you find. If youTeaching Notes : Reading2 3. do, it will take you a long time to read the text. This can be very boring, and usually will not help youto a better understanding. (Click for advice on how and when to use your dictionary.)Learn the important words that organise text - When you read texts in your science orhistory books, you will find that most good writers organise their writing with cohesion markers. Theseare words that connect different parts of the writing and help writers organise their ideas. If you learnthe important cohesion markers, you will find it easier to understand the text.Here are some important cohesion markers: also, therefore, except, unless, however, instead,(al)though, nevertheless, on the other hand, as a result, despite, in conclusion.Choose the right place to read - You cant really expect to understand a difficult book if youare trying to read in the same room with the television on and your little brother distracting you. Thesame goes for reading in the bus on the way to school. You also cant expect to read a textbook andlisten to music at the same time. Try to find a quiet and comfortable place with good light, and yourdictionaries and other materials nearby.Choose the right time to read - If you have a difficult text to read for homework, its probablybest to do this first. If you leave it until last when you are tired, you will find it even more difficult.Important: If you have tried the advice above and you still cannot understand a text, then it is simplytoo hard for you. Stop reading and ask someone to help you (your teacher, for example!). Nobody likesto give up, but you will just be wasting your time if you continue to work at a text that is beyond you.What to readMost of the time you have to read what your teachers tell you to read. But as you know, reading is anexcellent way to improve your English, and so you should try to do some extra reading each week.Here is some advice on how to choose what to read:Try not to read something too difficult - There should be no more than about 6-10 new words per page;reading for pleasure should not be hard work!Reading easy books is good for you -You will improve your reading skills even if you readsimple books, as long as you read lots of them. (But you may find you dont really enjoy stories writtenin English that has been over-simplified.)Try to read some non-fiction - Reading non-fiction books or magazines will help you learnTeaching Notes : Reading3 4. some of the words you need to do well in your subject classes.Choose something that is interesting to you - This is clear. In fact, if you are reallyinterested in a topic, you will probably be able to understand texts that would normally be too difficultfor you.Teaching Notes : Reading 4 5. Reading comprehensionThis section on reading comprehension deals with the following subjects:1.Skimming and scanning2.Non-verbal signals3.Structure of texts4.Structure of paragraphs5.Punctuation6.Authors viewpoint (inference)7.Reader anticipation: determining the meaning of words8.Summarizing1. Skimming and scanningBefore starting to read a text in detail, the reader should take a moment to preview the text. Readquickly, without pausing to study the details. This is called skim reading or skimming. The readershould understand:for which audience the text was written (general public, professionals, laymen,)what type of text it is (report, informal letter, formal letter, article, advertisement, )what the purpose of the author is (to describe, to inform, to explain, to instruct, to persuade)the general contents of the textAfter having skimmed the text, the reader can study the text in more detail, reading more slowly andcarefully and looking for specific information that he is interested in. This is called scanning.2. Non-verbal signalsTeaching Notes : Reading5 6. The meaning of a text is not only conveyed by means of words. All texts also contain non-verbal signs.This can be the use of certain style features, such as different fonts, bold print, underlining, or italics.The meaning of these style features can be different in different text. In one text italics may be used toemphasize a word, in another text italics can indicate can be used to make subtitles.Layout features are also non-verbal signals. For example:heading:a title printed at the top of a page to indicate the subject matter that is going to be discussed in aparticular chapter, column or section.title:tells you what the text is about.subheading:presents you with a brief summary, an introduction or explanation.photographs:pictures related to an article or a text.captions:comments on pictures related to a textdivision into paragraphs:each paragraph is a unity and deals with one particular idea.figures, graphs, bar charts, etc:to visualize facts and figures presented in the text.3. The structure of the textMost texts start with a title and sometimes a subtitle. After that, the introduction and the body followedby a conclusion or summary.An important aspect of reading is prediction. The better the reader can predict what he or she is goingto read, the faster and more effective he or she will read. The prediction process begins with the title.The introduction mostly informs the reader about what he can expect.The body consists of paragraphs. Each paragraph deals with one aspect of the subject matter.Paragraphs are linked in a logical way.Teaching Notes : Reading6 7. The conclusion puts the subject matter in the right perspective4. The structure of paragraphsA paragraph is a group of sentences. The number of sentences and words in a paragraph depends on thesubject, but on average, paragraphs contain between 75 and 150 words. Each paragraph deals with oneaspect of the subject of the text. So, it is usually possible to give each paragraph its own subtitle, whichsummarizes the contents of the paragraph in one sentence.A typical paragraph consists of three parts. The first sentence contains the topic sentence, which is theheart of the paragraph. The topic sentence (also called thesis sentence or key sentence) contains thenew aspect of the subject of the text. The second part of the paragraph contains sentences whichdevelop the aspect. These sentences may contain arguments, explanations, details, examples, and othersupporting evidence. The last sentence of a paragraph is often a summary of the paragraph or a linkingsentence to the next paragraph.In many well written texts the reader will get a good impression of the contents by reading just the firstsentences (= the topic sentences) of each paragraph.Paragraphs are linked in a logical way by link words. These link words are also used within aparagraph.Exercise: ParagraphsRead the following paragraph and indicate:the topic sentencelink words linking sentenceslink words linking paragraphsThere is the first problem with tipping: the more discretion you have in the matter the more unpleasantit is. Tipping is an aristocratic conceit - "There you go, my good man, buy your starving family a loaf"-best left to an aristocratic age. The practicing democrat would rather be told what he owes right upfront. Offensively, rich people may delight in peeling off hundred-dollar bills and tossing them out togroveling servants. But no sane, well-adjusted human being cares to sit around and evaluate theperformance of some beleaguered coffee vendor.Teaching Notes : Reading7 8. 5. PunctuationPunctuation is partly based on grammar. For example, commas are often used to separate clauses. If thereader understands the meaning and usage of punctuation marks, it will be easier to understand thegrammatical structures.Punctuation marks also indicate how the author wants the reader to interpret a piece of text. Forexample, if the author puts something in brackets, the part of the sentence should be interpreted as anaddition to the sentence.6. The authors viewpoint (inference)In reading a text the reader makes inferences or assumptions about the position of the author. Is theauthor neutral or does the author show his own opinion. The author often shows his opinion either byadding certain phrases or by adding a value to a word.The author can add words like luckily, unfortunately to show that he is pleased or not pleased withsomething. He can also add words which show his surprise, regret or other emotions, for examplesurprisingly, to shock, unexpectedly, regrettably, pity, desirable, to be disappointed, etc. The author mayalso use words to indicate the level of certainty, for example: certain, obviously, undoubtedly, naturally,always, often, likely, probably, maybe, unlikely, hardly, rarely, never, etc. Another possibility is that theauthor adds words to comment on more or less objective facts. For example Only 40% of the staff isfemale has quite a different meaning than As much as 40% of the staff is female.The author can also reveal his viewpoint by adding value to a word. For example, if something is bighe may use the word huge or gigantic to indicate he is impressed. If something is small he may usewords like tiny or microscopic to indicate that he is not impressed. If someone is afraid he may use theword terrified to add suspense, if something is good he may use the word fantastic.Exercise: authors viewpointRead the following paragraph and write down which word indicates the authors opinion. Also explainwhat his opinion is.Teaching Notes : Reading 8 9. There is the first problem with tipping: the more discretion you have in the matter the more unpleasantit is. Tipping is an aristocratic conceit - "There you go, my good man, buy your starving family a loaf"-best left to an aristocratic age. The practicing democrat would rather be told what he owes right upfront. Offensively, rich people may delight in peeling off hundred-dollar bills and tossing them out togroveling servants. But no sane, well-adjusted human being cares to sit around and evaluate theperformance of some beleaguered coffee vendor.7. reader anticipation: determining meaning of wordsEven readers who have a wide and flexible vocabulary will encounter words of which they do notknow the meaning. Very often there is not enough time to look up all those words in a dictionary. Thismeans that readers should be able to guess the meaning of the word. This is often possible if the readerunderstands the relationships between words in meaning and form.To make a good guess at the meaning of the word, the reader must look for clues, indications, that helphim find that meaning. The following steps may help to disclose the meaning of unknown words:step 1determine the word class, i.e. a verb, a noun, an adjective, an adverb, etc.step 2determine its function in the sentence, i.e. how is it related to other words in the sentence?step 3contextual clues, i.e. is the context in which we find this word positive or negative; what does thecontext tell us about the word?step 4is there any relation between this...</p>