What is the difference between reading and studying? I pose this question to my students and often receive blank stares in response. When I ask them to distinguish between “leisure reading” and academic reading, most of them admit that the only reading they do is that required for school. Their choices for discretionary time generally tend toward the electronic—television, computer games, cell phone. It’s little wonder, then, that when they face standardized tests, they struggle with critical reading passages.
One way to improve comprehension and reduce study time is to employ active reading strategies.
As the name states, this type of reading requires the participant to be actively engaged in the process. It involves a pen or pencil, so the reader can extract meaning from the text by asking questions and by making brief notations on the page. If writing in the book is not feasible, as in the case with most public school students who merely borrow a book for the academic year, using a notepad or sticky notes is the alternative. Simply highlighting material is a poor alternative, as the result can be a colored page that provides little clue to important passages. The questions the reader poses as she reads provide a framework for unlocking the information.
Why am I reading this? The answer to this question should NEVER be, “Because I have to,” or “Because the teacher said so.” Rather, the following questions will prove to be more helpful: “What do I want to learn from this selection?” “Why is this important?”
What type of information is this? Is it a non-fiction or fiction section? What is the general topic? What is the specific information that I can learn about this topic?
What is the main idea or thesis? Express this in a word or phrase.
What is the author’s purpose? Is this piece informative, humorous, satiric, analytical, etc?
What is this paragraph about? Notice how each paragraph following the thesis reinforces or qualifies the initial premise by providing examples, illustrations.
While this method may take some practice, the more one uses it, the more likely it will become second nature. Studying can become more productive and less time consuming.