The Secret of Reading Comprehension
by Terry Small
Ever get to the bottom of a page and wonder what you just read? You are not alone! Most people’s reading comprehension is not very good. Our minds wander. In fact, studies show that average retention is 2% after 30 days. There is a secret to doing much better. A brain secret!
Your brain works best from the big picture to the details. Not the other way around. Ever do a jigsaw puzzle? That picture on the lid helped! Could you have put the puzzle together without the picture? Probably. Would it take longer? Yes. Is there a greater chance you would become discouraged, and stop working on the puzzle? Yes. Again, have you ever got to the bottom of a page that you just read and asked, “What did I just read?” Odds are your brain went sideways for the same reason….no picture. When you pick up something and just start reading it is pretty much the same as trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together without the big picture.
So what is the secret of much better reading comprehension and retention?
Schema is a word that means mental map. It’s what you know about a topic before you read about it. That is what determines comprehension! Good schema equals good comprehension.
Here is a great way to get improved schema when you read any non-fiction material. Read the first sentence of each paragraph only all the way through the chapter. This is one of my very favorite learning strategies that I teach people in my speed reading seminars. The first sentence of each paragraph contains the main idea or the topic sentence. When you read the first sentence of each paragraph you get the big picture. When you read the details later they have a place to “stick” in your brain.
Try it now. Get a book. Turn to a chapter that you have not read. Quickly read the first sentence of each paragraph. I think you will be quite surprised at what your brain does. Now when you read the chapter, notice the improvement.
Remember, reading makes you smarter. It puts a voice in your head. It’s good for your brain.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Terry Small, B.Ed., M.A., also known as the Brain Guy, is a master teacher and Canada’s leading learning skills specialist. He is the author of the Brain Bulletin with over 34,000 subscribers worldwide.
Terry has presented on the brain for over 33 years to organizations around the world. His knowledge, warmth, humour and dynamic presentation style have made him a much sought-after speaker at workshops and conferences. Terry often appears on TV, radio, and in the press. He recently appeared on BCTV, Global, CKNW and Student Success. He has presented his ideas to over 238,000 people in 23 countries.
His clients include IBM, TEDx, Ford, IMD, JTI, UBS, Hitachi, Bayer, Bosch, CRA, RCMP, Telus, and many schools and universities. His presentations are engaging, humorous, practical, and all based on the latest brain science.
Terry believes, “Anyone can learn how to learn easier, better, faster, and that learning to learn is the most important skill a person can acquire.”
Terry’s wealth of teaching experience and extensive involvement in applied neuroscience and make him an outstanding resource of the business and educational communities. He resides in Vancouver, Canada, where he is a frequent lecturer at Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia.
Terry Small’s Philosophy is simple: “Success is a skill anyone can learn.”