Free Resources for Students and Teachers of English as a Foreign Language in China - by Paul Sparks

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Paul Sparks, Sino-Canadian International College, Guangxi University, Online English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas for Reading Lessons...



Reading: Approaches to Reading


Lesson Objectives:
To understand that there are a variety of different approaches to reading. The different approaches can help in understanding and speed of reading.

Skimming involves looking through a book or article and reading only the main parts like contents, headings, introductions, summaries and conclusions. With skimming, you are trying to get a general impression of the material.

The purpose of skimming is to reduce reading time: When skimming, you should read at approximately twice your average reading speed.

In an article, you ignore the details and look for the main ideas. The main ideas are topic sentences which often occur at the beginning of a paragraph.

First read the title, the introductory paragraphs, all subheadings and the final paragraphs. Note the pictures, tables or graphs that are included. This helps your mind prepare for what’s ahead. Finally, look at the topic sentences for the paragraphs in the main body.

Scanning: Scanning is a very quick search for some important points for specific information. In this kind of reading, your eyes move quickly over the words for figures until you find the exact information you are looking for.  As your eyes move down the page, keep in mind what you are looking for and ignore everything else.

What do people scan for?  Usually, you will be looking for a number, name, place, or fact. One way is to look for capital letters, currency symbols like $, and titles, e.g. “Dr”.  

There are two very common examples of scanning:

  • finding a name in the telephone book

  • looking up a word in a dictionary

Reading to Understand: This involves trying to absorb the major facts and ideas. You may have to read the article more than once as you try to understand the information. You will use highlighting, underlining and note-taking to help with your comprehension.

Reading to understand takes more time than the other approaches because you are usually trying to learn something new. This is also the type of reading you do with books, magazines, and newspapers. Reading for pleasure is fun and relaxing.

You can use your imagination to picture the main characters. You can try to predict the ending of the story. You can learn about other places and lifestyles. Reading for pleasure opens up a whole new world. It helps to build your vocabulary and your understanding of idioms.

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