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Understanding the Reading Process

Good readers understand the processes involved in reading and consciously control them. This awareness and control of the reading processes is called metacognition, which means "knowing about knowing." Some students don't know when they don't know. They continue to read even though they are not comprehending. Poor readers tolerate such confusion because they either don't realize that it exists or don't know what to do about it. Poor readers focus on facts, whereas good readers try to assimilate details into a larger cognitive pattern.

Five Thinking Strategies of Good Readers

  1. Predict: Make educated guesses. Good readers make predictions about thoughts, events, outcomes, and conclusions. As you read, your predictions are confirmed or denied. If they prove invalid, you make new predictions. This constant process helps you become involved with the author's thinking and helps you learn.
     
  2. Picture: Form images. For good readers, the words and the ideas on the page trigger mental images that relate directly or indirectly to the material. Images are like movies in your head, and they increase your understanding of what you read.
     
  3. Relate: Draw comparisons. When you relate your existing knowledge to the new information in the text, you are embellishing the material and making it part of your framework of ideas. A phrase of a situation may remind you of a personal experience or something that you read or saw in a film. Such related experiences help you digest the new material.
     
  4. Monitor: Check understanding. Monitor your ongoing comprehension to test your understanding of the material. Keep an internal summary or synthesis of the information as it is presented and how it relates to the overall message. Your summary will build with each new detail, and as long as the message is consistent, you will continue to form ideas. If, however, certain information seems confusing or erroneous, you should stop and seek a solution to the problem. You must monitor and supervise you own comprehension. Good readers seek to resolve difficulties when they occur; they do not keep reading when they are confused.
     
  5. Correct gaps in understanding. Do not accept gaps in your reading comprehension. They may signal a failure to understand a word or a sentence. Stop and resolve the problem. Seek solutions, not confusion. This may mean rereading a sentence or looking back at a previous page for clarification. If an unknown word is causing confusion, the definition may emerge through further reading. When good readers experience gaps in comprehension, they do not perceive themselves as failures; instead, they reanalyze the task to achieve better understanding.

 Adapted for Breaking Through to College Reading, Brenda Smith, 1999.

 

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