Reading Strategies to Enhance Learning

As a student, you may put off reading the textbook or any other course materials if it appears to be difficult, complex, or unappealing. What is needed in these situations is a strategy that allows you to read any type of material through the use of an analytic approach, which allows you to feel less anxiety when you have a specific purpose and plan. One such reading strategy that can be used by students, or anyone who wants to develop their reading comprehension skills, is called SQ3R. The steps within this process follow this order: survey, question, read, recall, and review. SQ3R will help you analyze what you have read and comprehend the meaning.

SQ3R can be utilized for any reading format, including electronic materials or e-book versions of the course textbooks because the process used to review the information is still the same. The same is true for students who read their textbooks on a Kindle or other handheld device. In addition, as you use SQ3R, you can handwrite your notes or type your notes on your computer.

Before you begin the process of reading, it is important to be prepared because if you jump right into reading the materials without a plan, you may find that you lose interest or give up. The preparation time, referred to as the survey part of the process, involves a preview of the materials. You can start by reading the first and last paragraphs, chapter titles, and highlighted words. Next, review all of the charts, tables, and graphs. This will provide you with a general overview of the topics you will analyze. 
The next step in the SQ3R process is called the question phase. After you have previewed the materials, write down questions to ask while you read. You can develop your own questions or use the questions provided at the end of the textbook chapter. These questions will help you concentrate on the material and stay focused. Here are some questions you can ask:
•    What am I reading?
•    Why am I reading this?
•    What do I know about the subject now?
•    Do I understand the meaning of what I’ve read?

After you are prepared to read and have developed a list of questions, it is time to begin to read the material in depth. At this point, you should feel comfortable with the topics because you have previewed the subject matter.

As you read, process the information by taking notes, underlining important points, and answering the questions you’ve developed. If you have a PDF version of the textbook, Adobe Reader has a tool that will allow you to insert comments throughout a document. There is also a note-taking feature available for Kindle and other handheld devices; however, users often report that it is difficult to take notes on such devices because of the smaller keyboard.

If at any point the materials seem unclear, stop and reread that section again. Another important aspect of reading is the development of your vocabulary. If there are unknown words, look up the definitions as this will help increase your comprehension.
Once you have read the material and written notes, you can reinforce what you’ve learned if you ask yourself the questions created before you began to read. This is referred to as the recall or recite step. To check your progress along the way, you can periodically stop as you read and recite your notes. 

The final step of the SQ3R reading strategy is the review process. Here are some strategies you can use as part of your review:
•    Create flash cards to review and remember key points. Utilize index cards so you can keep the information handy.  
•    Quiz yourself or have someone else ask you questions about what you have read.
•    Review your notes on a periodic basis so you are ready for the next class or exam.

Whether you read an actual textbook or view your materials on a computer screen or portable device, the use of a reading strategy will help you analyze and comprehend what you have read. You will likely understand the material better, retain the information longer, and be more prepared to actively participate in class discussions or complete a written assignment.
By Dr. Bruce Johnson

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