Ahead of the Curve

Ep 5: Simple Reading Strategies For Students

April 29, 2020 Strive Academics Season 1 Episode 5
Ahead of the Curve
Ep 5: Simple Reading Strategies For Students
Show Notes Transcript

Are you struggling with Reading and Reading Comprehension? In this episode, Ralston will talk about things students should keep in mind when working on improving their reading skills as well as some tips for what students should focus on understanding.

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Speaker 1:

Hey guys, two quick notes on top. I noticed that during the process of recording when I was analyzing some of the audio, there seems to be some, a few minor glitches. The audio is totally listened to both, but you might notice some of that. And then second, I also noticed that the top that I said that this is episode four, this is in fact episode five of ahead of the curve. So without further ado, let's get started.

Speaker 2:


Speaker 1:

hi, I am Ralston owner and founder of strive academics and today we're going to be talking about simple tips and strategies that students can use to stay on track and improve their reading skills. So this is going to be a quick bout of tips and strategies that students can implement in order to improve their reading skills. So diving straight into that first strategy that I think students need to employ is first understanding and improving their vocabulary. Because this is really the most basic at the core fundamentals when it comes to improving your reading skills. Because if obviously if you cannot understand the words, then it becomes a lot harder later on to analyze what kind of ideas and thoughts are trying to be communicated to you. In fact, I see all the time with students where when they encounter words that they are not quite familiar with, particularly what comes to mind for me is Shakespeare or something like that or some kind of older text even as quote unquote recently as the say 17 hundreds things like the founding documents from the U S and when they encounter words that they're not familiar with, they kind of freeze up. It becomes harder for them to move past that point and identify the words out from that context. So first is just improving those vocab skills. So at first this comes with just basics, understanding and reading words. You can do this studying with flashcards. You can do it with going through the dictionary and picking out random words. You can even use a word of the day app. Personally, I love dictionary.com app plus their website. They're always putting out great words of the day though. Some of their words can be pretty out there because it's really advanced stuff. Some things that even someone's less adults have probably never seen before. So I would say start off by looking at a word of the day list that is simple. Something for students geared towards elementary and middle school students. When as you're obviously going up through each grade level, then you want to find progressively harder and harder words. You know, this is for students out there. This is a big reason why your teachers give you vocab assignments and I know sometimes it can be tedious. I mean I've been there sometimes, you know, having to go through writing down lists of words and identifying them and maybe even writing out sentences. Not exactly my idea of fun. Probably not yours either, but it's an essential way to practice those words and help broaden your vocabulary because the more words that you have in your toolbox, the easier it's going to be able for you to understand those ideas when it comes to more complex texts. And so keeping with that, I think it's also important for students to grasp a great understanding of how the language works in how English puts together words and what I'm talking about here is having a good understanding of how English uses its roots. It's prefixes and suffixes in order to put together those words to form new concepts for, if I say use the word confident well or say use the word comfortable. Well, if I put the prefix before that means not so uncomfortable, creates a new definition and being able to use those elements and build upon them, even if you've maybe never seen the word before, becomes an important tool for students to utilize. And this might be because I'm biased, but I think that it's really important for students that at least have some grasp of Latin and Greek vocab words. I studied Latin and Greek when I was in high school and college. It's actually my major. But the reason I think that it's so important is because I know for me personally, I did not quite understand really the mechanics of English grammar or the words to the degree that I do now until I really started studying foreign languages. Now Latin and Greek weren't my first foreign languages. However, I understand that Latin, Latin particularly compromises a great portion of the routes that link up many English words. And so when you take the time to understand Latin and Greek roots, it really makes it much easier for you to parse those words that you've never encountered before for , let's see, I'm trying to come up with an example just off the top my head cause I didn't prepare beforehand, but let's say if I wanted to encounter a word like say vacuous well I would understand that vacuous comes from that that vac is the same root . That means empty from Latin. And so one strategy that students could employ is taking words that you're already familiar with, like vacuum. Now, it's probably not the same one to one comparison because students probably don't really associate the word vacuum with empty. But if you had a little bit of an understanding about how those Latin and Greek roots work, then you would understand, well, okay, something that's vacuous has something to do with space, a lack of space or something to do with just being empty. And so gaining a better grasp on those things helps you identify words in the context that they're being used but also helps you treat it like building blocks. It helps you put those pieces together to give you more strategies to assess that knowledge. The next step after you work upon building your vocabulary, students should, well, you've probably heard this a thousand times before. You've got to read more. And I know some of us just hate reading. I know for me , uh , probably for many people we've fallen out of, you know, some sort of stage where either you've just never liked reading or you feel that, you know, it's gotten boring at some point in time. For me, when I was younger, I was a four gracious reader. Up until probably my sixth or seventh grade. I remember in fifth grade , uh, around the time when Harry Potter and the goblet of fire came out, I blew through that thing in a week. I was a very, very avid reader and sometime around six or seven I read John Grisham's the firm or something like that, and then I just fell out of it. I was no longer interested in novels, but the thing that I want to bring to your attention is you might say that you don't like to read, but really what that means if you think about it, is that you don't like to read certain things because if you think back to it now, I say that I fell out of reading when I was in middle school or so , but it wasn't that I wasn't reading anything. It was that I was particularly focused on reading different types of material. I got into comic books and manga and so a lot of my reading, I was still blowing through a lot of that text, a lot of those resources and that was one way for me to continue working upon my reading skills. Now if you're a parent, you may scoff at , you know, Oh my gosh, comic books are really reading comic books and maybe that's more of a thought of the past. But definitely in the past, you know, comic books did not have the kind of appreciation that they do. Or it could even be something like magazines , uh , news, articles, sports, whatever it is. As long as you're reading something and you continue reading, that will be an essential part of building those reading skills for you. That's the first step. First, you just have to continue reading something and it can be something that's enjoyable for you. It doesn't matter if it's a fashion magazine, it doesn't matter if it's a sports article. It doesn't matter if it's comics or traditional novels. It doesn't have to be just the stuff that your teachers assign you. Because what's important is that you are not only taking in the information, you're learning new words and you are taking the time to work on those skills that allows you to further appreciate the reading, to gain that context to, you know, build upon those strategies and so on. But like I said, that's only the first step. In addition to just reading more content in general, you do have to read a variety of content. So the next step for you students is to take the content that you've been reading, like your comics, like your novels and so on. And then you really got to start branching out. So particularly when it comes to test prep, like act or sat or even later on in high school when say on state tests, usually they tend to focus around four different areas. They tend to focus on humanities , uh , some sort of history slash social studies, science and then regular fiction. So you need to read a smattering, a variety of those types of materials . You need to understand how to read novels and how to pick details and tone and make inferences out of fictional material. You need to be able to take factual knowledge like in new sources and to be able to pick out the important details to infer the concepts that are not only being explicitly said, but also the things that the author or narrator is implying. In addition to that, you need to be able to not get stuck on scientific vocabulary and have a basic understanding of how to read charts, grafts on how to analyze scientific material and basic data. And then last you need to be able to kind of going previously with some of the nonfiction stuff, historical documents, you need to have some idea of how to analyze things like arguments. You need to be able to analyze factual events. You need to be able to say, you need to be able to take out those little bits and pieces and identify those words from context, like I mentioned before, and working on your skills there will allow you to not get stuck when you encounter those types of things. So you need to read a variety of content. And I gave them a wealth of examples just now, but it could be something from, again, studying vocabulary on dictionary.com it can be reading the New York times or Washington post or wall street journal or something like that. You can read primary sources, famous speeches from past presidents like JFK, or you can read , uh , Martin Luther King's I have a dream speech. You can go back and read the Federalist papers and the founding documents of our country because these are all things that come up often, at least for us tests. So these are great things to familiarize yourself with because honestly, they're going to probably come up at one time or another. So become more comfortable with these variety of things. And honestly, you need to have some understanding of the classics that's just expected of you. I can tell you for myself, Lord, I find Shakespeare incredibly boring and I probably will get a lot of hate for that. But for many students probably agree with me when I start to read Shakespeare. It's not that I can't comprehend it, it's just that I find it to be a snore Fest. But a few years ago I decided to start going back over some of those classics like to kill a Mockingbird, like slaughterhouse five, like going back all over, all of those things , especially the things that I didn't pay attention to as a student because having that basic bit of cultural knowledge will help you build more upon the building blocks of your understanding. It will give you more information that you can use to further analyze texts. And that gets more into literary devices, which I'll talk about probably in another video. But understanding these things, having that cultural knowledge, that basic , it's , it's important to really contribute and appreciate that conversation for students. Uh, I'll tell you I love memes. I absolutely love means I share them all the time. But it's, I think it's a perfect Amal analogy here because there are some memes that unless you understand two or three or four names before it, you really don't have to have the context to truly appreciate what the joke is. And so the same thing goes for reading as well because authors do that all the time. They take bits and pieces from novels and you can even see this in movies and TV shows and whatever else. They take these bits and pieces and they sprinkle it into their content as they're making new things and unless you have that background of cultural knowledge, you just really don't fully appreciate what the author is trying to tell you and all the little subtle things that they've put in there. So it's important to read more, not only for understanding the words or the images that's right before you, but also for understanding those layers and layers. Underneath that comes from more complex literature and media in general. Once you have taken the opportunity to learn more and to read more and you started reading a variety of things, the last step is to then focus on mastering those reading comprehension fundamentals and strategies. So this gets into, like I was saying just now, it gets into understanding more of those literary devices, how an author might use an illusion or an allegory to point your mind towards a particular point. How the author is using a variety of images or imagery to spark those, those pictures in your head in order to communicate their point more vividly to you. Because a text might say one thing, but because of the way that they're using their words, that's called diction or by the imagery that they're painting or that the illusion that they're making, maybe they're actually meaning something completely different and unless you have a better grasp of those things, it's something that you will just completely miss . So it's important to get an understanding of those layers, but then it's important to understand how do I find the essential information that I want to find. For an example, if I wanted to figure out what the heck is this talking about, what is the point of this content? Then I'm looking for the main idea and where do I find the main idea? Well, I always tell my students, pay most attention not only to what's at the beginning and the end, but also pay attention to topics . Sentences, pay attention to how the author or narrator, whoever it is, pay attention to how they start and end each paragraph, each block of information, because that tells you where they're trying to carry your focus. It happens throughout anything, whether it's a novel, whether it's a play, or even if it's a TV show. The order in which people present things tells you what's most important. Think about if you want to have a conversation. If you are trying to argue or trying to make a point to someone, what is the thing that you're going to start with? You want to typically, if you want to be effective, get straight to the point with exactly what you're trying to say. So the most important thing for you in your argument, in your statement comes up. The very top authors do the same thing. They're going to start with what's the most important information, the main idea of what they want you to focus on, and then everything comes out after that. You'll see the strategy employed when you're being taught to learn how to write. Your teachers always tell you start with your main idea and then you come up with your supporting statements after the fact. Each thing comes afterwards. But typically you want to start from most important to least important. So main idea comes in order of importance. If you're identifying something like the tone, while that refers to how is either the author or the characters feeling, what kind of emotions are they trying to communicate to you? Well, if you want to find the tone of a particular text, you can't just pay attention to the words that someone is saying. Because I could say, and you've probably experienced this with a friend, I could say I'm great, but if I do it with a scowl on my face, or if I say it be grudgingly , or if you see that word use in the text, well begrudgingly means that I'm not happy. So I could say I'm happy , but I mean something completely different. So you don't only need to pay attention to the words, but you also need to pay attention to the actions and how that's described either by the author or by the character. For things like making inferences. This requires you to step into the shoes of either the narrator or your characters. It's not just about how you feel and how you would approach a particular situation, but you have to connect deeper to that particular characters. Motivations. Where did they grow up? How have they felt an act to this point ? How do they feel about particular people or situations or places? It's those kinds of that helps you identify what would logically make the most sense for this person or this narrator to do or say next. Because unless you understand what is truly driving someone else, you cannot understand what would be the next step that they would take. This comes into, for example, I love strategy games. Well, the purpose of playing a strategy game or the one of the key skills that you need to have if you're playing something like monopoly, it's not just all about playing to win and build your hotels and gain the board. You could do that with a variety of luck and that's a big part of the game or really any game . However, it's equally important to understand what your opponent's motives and strategies are. You need to step to think two or three steps ahead of them if you're going to play a game like that or something like chess in order to create your strategy to counteract that. So if you are not thinking ahead, if you are not trying to identify what the way that your opponent in this case is thinking, then you won't go very far. Same thing comes with analyzing text. You need to connect deeper with how that character is motivated, how that character thinks, what experiences did they grow up with and what would make sense to them, not what makes sense to you. So that's again, one of the core fundamentals when it comes to understanding. And there's a lot more, there's more literary devices and things that you need to know how to look out for. But I'm going to put a link in the description below as to a previous blog article where we've talked more about those things and how to identify those particular details in reading comprehension texts. So that's kind of where I'm going to wrap things up. Uh , to reiterate the things that I said . So first students need to work on building their vocabulary. This comes not only from just using flashcards and word of the day tools, but it could also mean implemented something like getting a better grasp of how roots, prefixes and suffixes work in English to create new words. It also requires you to maybe learn a little bit of Latin and Greek, just the common routes that come up in a lot of words to help you gain more context around that. In addition to building your vocabulary, you just need to read more. First start off with the stuff that you love, whether it's a fashion magazine, whether it's a sports article, whether it's news, start off with the that you like and then start branching out to more and more material because the more material that you have experienced with the, you'll start realizing that different topics, depending on what they're trying to communicate will use different words. They'll use different words such as if I were to take the word walk, well that basically describes the motion of proceeding forward. But I could also describe that same concept by using the word run, sprint, Gallup and so on. But each of those words, even though they have the same basic concept, they mean slightly different things to walk is to do it at my leisure. Maybe it's something for fun to run. Either means I'm in a hurry or I just like fitness. If I'm galloping while I'm probably not a human, I'm a horse or some other four legged animal. And if I'm sprinting, well something's probably really wrong cause I'm in a big hurry. So there's differences in the context and the nuances and you'll see that as you read different types of material because they'll use different variety of words and different strengths of words. They'll word different concepts or even the same concepts in different ways depending on what their stance is or what they're trying to communicate to you, whether they're trying to be more informal and be fun like a buddy of yours or whether they're trying to just give you the facts. Being able to read a variety of content will open up your world to the wealth of ways that people express their feelings, their thoughts, their emotions. So it's an important part of not only just when it comes to reading, but the whole purpose of understanding how to read is because it really helps you understand those ideas that people are trying to communicate with you. So when it comes to reading more, the reason why we stress this is really because we want you to understand the world that's around you. Last thing that you need to do is understand those reading comprehension strategies. Understand where to look when it comes to finding the main idea, understand what it means to make inferences out of the information that you have. Learn how to identify the true meaning behind behind what someone wants and their emotions and the tone that's presented before you, stuff like that. So before we wrap up, I'll go over the resource of today and this is something that I want to mention as something that I use or mentioned to students instead of one scholarship, it's a scholarship aggregator, it's called scaly . I believe that's been on shark tank before and it's an app or website that you can sign up for kind of like Fastweb , uh , if many of students have probably heard of that before, but you can sign up, put in the relevant details that's pertinent to you and it can help you find scholarships that are basically geared towards your particular situation. Some scholarships, I don't know if you've noticed, get really, really specific. It's not all about competitions or who can write the best essay. There are unique ones like who's the winner or best pick for this art contest. It could be something specific, like people who are part of the Methodist church, or it could be even be a specific as a junior who is interested in art, but who is also really , who is also very socially conscious about driver's safety and awareness. We have one like that listed on the database on our site. So it can be a variety of things. And so it's a great tool for you to start your scholarships search, especially when you have time at hand. So that's where I'll end things today. Next time I'm going to go over, I'm going to switch things up a little bit and maybe do something like a Q and a, or talk about some of the things that maybe students should think about when looking for a tutor .

Speaker 3:

What did we do? How can we actually help you? We'll talk a little bit more about that next time. So have a great day and we'll see you next week.

Speaker 4:

Uh , uh .