7 skills to develop in reading
Previewing is essential to get a sense of what the text is about. Elements that are usually helpful for previewing are newspaper headlines or titles; images or photos; and signal words or format. For example, if the article has words like first, second, third, etc… at the beginning of each paragraph or is a numbered list, you will get the sense that the text lists steps or is a roundup article.
Reading Exercise: Choose a newspaper article with a great headline. Before reading the article, think about what the article will be about, based on the headline.
It is always helpful to learn to place the text within a context. Is the news article centred on something that happens everywhere in the world, or just in one specific location? Is this something that affects you, the reader, or other people in the world? Does the main character in the story go through something you can relate to, or something you have no experience in? Use these questions to think about as you read.
Reading Exercise: Before reading this text about The Australian education system, discuss the educational system in your country: How many years of grade school are there? How many years of high school? Then read about what it’s like to go to school in Britain and compare it to your country.
If you are visual learner, you need to “see” the information. Can you see the main character in your mind’s eye based on the description? Can you picture the contaminated river as described in the news article? Visualising also involves organising the information in a visual way, usually through the use of a mind map or other graphic organiser.
Reading Exercise: Read a text like By the Water. After the reading, record the images that come to mind as you read: I can picture the sun shining on the water and the birds flying above…
Asking and Answering Questions
What questions come to mind when you preview an article? How will the main character solve this problem? Devise questions you would like answered in the text and pay attention to how they are answered.
Reading Exercise: Read a news article or a piece like this one about the Boston Marathon. After reading the title, write three questions you expect the article will answer and then read to see if you can find the answers.
After reading, summarise what you've read. This may be a short oral summary or a full paragraph. Summarising includes a very important skill: getting the gist. What was the main point in the story? Summarising is not retelling everything that happened as it happened, and you need to not only tell the difference, but also learn to give back information in a clear concise manner.
Reading Exercise: Read the story of Helen of Troy. Summarise in just one sentence or two what caused the Trojan War.
Skimming and scanning are usually considered speed-reading skills because they are not used for intensive reading. They are essential skills nonetheless, and you need to know that sometimes intensive reading is not necessary.
Skimming a text involves running your eyes over it quickly to get the main idea. It also allows you to identify which parts of a long text you might want to read more closely. This skill is particularly useful, for example, for when reading long extracts that are several pages long. By skimming the report, you can still follow the gist and stop when you find something of particular interest.
Reading Exercise: Find a magazine or newspaper in English, and in five minutes skim one. After you're done skimming, ask them what stories they remember reading.
Scanning, on the other hand, allows you to quickly search a text for a particular piece of information. Scanning is ideal when you need to find a phone number in a directory, the date of a historical event or for example, reading a bus schedule.
Reading Exercise: Use a magazine or newspaper in English. Find an article on education and COVID. Scan the text to find the information on how COVID has impacted education of students in Australia. Write your answer.