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How to Read Effectively

Effective reading refers to the ability to read with focus, comprehension, and efficiency to gain a deep understanding of the material. Here are some useful strategies and techniques for effective reading.

1. Predicting

When we make predictions about the text we are about to read, it sets up expectations based on our prior knowledge of similar topics. As a result, we activate relevant knowledge or experience from our long term memory in order to extract and construct meaning from text. As we read, we may mentally revise our prediction as we gain more information.

Before we read something, we can always make a quick prediction about the text based on the title or any other clues that are available, such as images and charts.

2. Inferring

In order to infer something that is not explicitly stated in the text, we need to learn how to draw on our prior knowledge and recognize clues in the text itself. Combining the information from the text with our existing knowledge and experiences can help us form new insights.

3. Visualizing

If we are reading something with images, we can take advantage of the images that are embedded in the text. If we are reading something without images, we can construct a mental image for the purpose of constructing meaning from the text.

For example, when you are reading a story, try to imagine the setting, the appearance of the characters, and the unfolding events as if you were watching a movie in your mind. Engage all your senses when visualizing. Think about how things might smell, feel, sound, and taste in the text. This multi-sensory approach makes the images more real and memorable.

4. Questioning the author

We can’t just learn how to read. We also need to learn how to question what we read. We need to question the authors’ intentions, purpose and authority.

Authors don’t know everything. Instead, they are fallible and they are capable of unintentionally misinforming readers. Here are some questions we can ask ourselves when we are reading:

  • What do you think the author wants us to know?

  • What’s the most important idea the author is trying to get across?

  • That’s what the author says, but what does the author really mean?

  • Does the author say it clearly?

  • How could the author make it clearer?

Questioning the author is not about challenging the text for the sake of it, but about seeking a deeper understanding and engaging with the material critically.

5. The K-W-L-Q Strategy

The “K” stands for what I know about the topic.

“W” stands for what I want to learn about the topic.

“L” stands for what I learn as I read or research.

“Q” stands for what questions I still have after I read.

If you are going to read an article about the impact of artificial intelligence on society, you can think about what you know about AI first, such as its real-world applications and ethical considerations. Then you can write down what you want to learn about AI, such as the challenges and the benefits of implementing AI. While you are reading the article, write down what you learned from the article and what you want to research further. In the end, organize the questions you still have about AI after you read or any new questions you came up with.

The benefits of the K-W-L-Q strategy is that it engages your brain in an active manner. When you try to predict what the article will be about, you create a mental framework or outline of what you expect to encounter in the text. This mental framework acts as a guide when you read, which helps you stay on track and pay closer attention to relevant information. You become more alert to information that matches or contradicts your predictions, which makes you more attentive and aware of the details in the article.

As you read, you constantly check whether your predictions are accurate. If they are, it reinforces your understanding. If they're not, you become more curious to discover the correct information, which promotes critical thinking and a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

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