5 Reading Strategies That Boost Memory

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This post was written by Daphne Engelken, an Education Consultant at Tutor Doctor Central Coast.

Today, we're going to be addressing a common issue that shows up in at least 70% of our consultations with the students we support through tutoring – auditory processing and short-term memory issues. Or, more specifically, how these challenges affect reading comprehension.

Tutor Doctor has some great tips to help students with these challenges, and parents can start using these strategies right away to become an active part of the solution. So without further ado, here are 5 reading strategies that boost memory!

1. Chunk it. Rather than reading a few chapters at a time, we recommend breaking down the text into smaller chunks. Some students benefit from periodically stopping to write down notes to summarize each paragraph. Other students find that simply taking a moment at the end of each page or chapter to reflect before moving forward also helps them to better retain the information.

Tutor Doctor Tip: Make a prediction about what might happen next! This is a great way to stay actively engaged in the story.

2. Repeat. Sometimes we need give ourselves a few extra chances to absorb the information we are reading. For many students who struggle to sound out or ‘decode’ words, the first read-through is mostly for getting a feel for the words and sentences. In many cases, students need to read the material again to gain a more fluent understanding of the ideas behind the words.

Tutor Doctor Tip: Try reading aloud the first time to help to sound out difficult words and phrases. Reading quietly the second time around helps to focus on the story.

3. Elaborate. For parents, try to look for relationships between the information being read and your child’s world. Try asking questions about the character’s emotions, the setting, or the events unfolding. This helps your child to dive deeply into the story using their own imagination!

Tutor Doctor Tip: Try not to test your child on specific details, and instead help spark their imagination with “what if” or “what would you do?” questions that are open ended.

4. Organize. We can help our brains by organizing information to make it easier to digest. One great way to move information from short-term to long-term memory is to write a study guide or draw a concept map. This is especially useful when comparing and contrasting ideas.

Tutor Doctor Tip: When creating a study guide, allow your child to choose the format and fill in the details. This will help them take ownership of the information and put it into their own words.

5. Mix up the modes. A combination of visual, audio, and hands-on activities make for much better recall later on. This is especially important for students with varying learning styles.

Tutor Doctor Tip: Let your child select a book and an activity from a short list that is appropriate for their reading level and age.

To sum up, the learning process (especially when it comes to reading comprehension) can be broken down into four steps:

  • Focus on the material. This is the actual process of engaging the material, and also the step where we highly recommend “chunking” long texts or assignments into bite-sized pieces.
  • Encoding the material. Elaborating on a story requires your child to pay attention to the events and characters, and also gives you insight into how your child is encoding (or interpreting) what they are reading.
  • Storage of the material. Students commit information to long-term memory not when they have repeated it enough times or when they have organized it, but when they have actually understood it. This is why pure memorization and repetition isn't enough for most students.
  • Recalling the information. Once your child is familiar with the information they have read, it’s important to help them practice applying it through an activity – especially one that involves multiple learning styles (visual, audio, tactile). This not only reinforces the material, but also helps them practice recalling that information.
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