SELF-PRACTICE READING COMPREHENSION SKILLS FOR STUDENTS AT UNIVERSITY LEVEL

ABSTRACT
This paper is a small composition in the study of reading comprehension. In this essay I mentioned some selective basic skills that are essential for a student’s competence in comprehending a written text, also point out the corresponding techniques to help students improve those skills by themselves. To be clear, I neither dived into every aspect of this subject nor made any complicated analysis on every element and factor. The paper can be considered as an introductory instruction of an English reading skill for students at university level.

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..................................2...........................................CONTENTS 1......................3............................ Improving vocabulary and grammar.....10 2...... Ability to identify main ideas and draw inferences.................... Language abilities.............3 2.................................................. CONCLUSION...........................3.3.......................4 2.....9 2............................ SKILLS REQUIRED FOR READING COMPREHENSION.............................3 2......................17 4..........................1...... Making inferences......3.........................5.........4 2..7 2... REFERENCES 2 .......................................................................................................................2........................................................ Developing and activating background knowledge..16 4..............................2................. INTRODUCTION...................................1..................................3 2......6 2...3..........14 3..............9 2............................2.......... REFERENCES..................... ENGLISH READING COMPREHENSION SKILLS.. Reading with a purpose.................4........3.............................3....... SELF-IMPROVING READING COMPREHENSION SKILLS.........................1.....................11 2..........2.13 2... Identifying topic and main ideas............... DEFINITION............3....................................................................... Background experiences..........2...........................

It is known that acquiring a reading efficiency is beneficial for absorbing knowledge. They will have to know what skills needed to acquire a good level of reading comprehension. and does not limit to any groups of age. the aim of this paper is to examine some aspects of reading comprehension skills and suggest the techniques for students to improve those skills by themselves. how much knowledge students can earn depends on how proficient their performance is in reading and comprehending texts. especially in the era of speed development of the world. as cited in “Factors that influence Reading Comprehension: Developmental and Instructional Considerations” by Dr. and the ways to improve those skills. DEFINITION According to Dolores Durkin. INTRODUCTION Reading has long been an indispensable skill of human in learning information.1. ENGLISH READING COMPREHENSION SKILLS 2. Of all age. Joseph K. That means reading comprehension is a mentally interactive process concerning the reader’s thoughts and 3 . university students are those who probably gain the most benefits from reading since they are in an academic study environment and have a high potential of accessing plenty of materials with instructions from teachers. reading comprehension is the “intentional thinking during which meaning is constructed through interactions between text and reader” (1993). Torgesen. 2. So. However.1.

1.2. indeed.1. Besides. In this way.1. Comprehension requires loads of mind working. In this session of my paper. The reader is not just ‘reading’ but also ‘thinking and cognizing’ information.2. SKILLS REQUIRED FOR READING COMPREHENSION Researchers have found that the efficiency of a student’s reading comprehension depends on many factors and so they based on those factors to point out what skills are required for reading comprehension. thus necessitates the reader’s competence in analyzing and perceiving so that he or she does not need to make too much effort to fully understand the text. he or she is capable of using the language. Language abilities When a student has language abilities. for a student. 2.abilities to catch ideas from the text he or she is reading. in order to gain efficiency in materials searching and learning. the 4 . the amount of study resources is too large to access all without spending too much time.2. a student can understand vocabulary and sentence structures built in every passage. Here I would like to discuss the influences of two elements: vocabulary and grammar. language abilities of a person will critically affect his or her competence in comprehension. 2. students should equip themselves with essential skills of reading. In fact. Knowledge of word meanings Alderson has stated (2000): “Measures of a reader's vocabulary knowledge routinely correlate highly with measures of reading comprehension. So. 2. some selective points from their results are presented. and are often.

From that point.single best predictor of text comprehension” (p. a student’s vocabulary covers about 90 to 95 percent of the words appearing. grammar has a substantial role since it is used to combine words and convey ideas in a structured and 5 .2. 35). Surely. If in a text. the more one reads.1. That is when they need to develop their knowledge of grammar. In other words. Still. the more comprehension brings along increases in the knowledge of word meanings. Knowledge of grammar While it is important to have a good size of vocabulary.2. there is a mutual relationship between knowledge of word meanings and comprehension skill. Nevertheless. having a large vocabulary is an advantage in reading. Nicole Landi. taking vocabulary into account when reading is a very good way to improve both their lexicon knowledge and comprehension ability. thus enlarge their vocabulary and experiences. Perfetti.” (Charles A. his or her comprehending process may be more quickly since they do not need to waste too much time looking up words in the dictionary. students also need to know how words are constructed in order to get the full meaning of a text. Also. “Word meanings are instrumental in comprehension on logical as well as theoretical grounds. they will try to access the meaning of those words and the relations between them and the context. 2. Knowing many words helps students grasp the literal meaning easily. especially terminologies. and Jane Oakhill. 2004). Some people may think that the meaning of words is less important than other aspects because they can rely on tips or other skills of comprehension to go through the text. In every language. when students encounter unfamiliar words in a text. students who have difficulties recognizing words will have to struggle a lot during their reading.

they will have fewer problems with these structures when encountering. p. the conditional sentences include three basic types: the first one indicates the probability of the action in the “if” clause in the present or future tenses. a reader’s background knowledge strongly influences the meaning construction. The following example is used by Anderson and Pearson (as cited in 6 . type four and five of conditional sentences perhaps. If the students can distinguish among the three. they can also point out what the implied meaning is in a context.2. Of course. and the last one also indicates the unreality or improbability but in the past tense. 2002. If the students can achieve higher levels in this point of grammar. to be able to do that. Truly. As we know. according to Anderson & Pearson (1984). Background experiences Besides language abilities. Here is a simple illustration for the role of grammar in reading comprehension. Each type comes with its respective syntax.well-organized form. How efficient a student’s reading is is based on his or her familiarity with key concepts and his or her previous acquaintance with a subject. Grammar rules help the writer arrange words and sentences neatly and strategically. the second type implies the unreality or improbability of the action with the similar time as type one. students’ background knowledge is important in reading and comprehension as students can relate their own experiences to the topic they are reading.2. so that readers will find it easy to decode the underlying meaning. Moreover. 2. 28). effective reading comprehension also requires the ability “to integrate text and background information appropriately and efficiently” (Grabe & Stoller. Reading about a topic that students have already known about or have experienced will also increase the chance to anticipate the writer’s message. the readers must have the ability to identify and parse grammatical syntax.

they will understand the difference between these two actions. Princess Anne broke the bottle on the ship. Nevertheless. The waitress broke the bottle on the ship. but requires a knowledge base from the readers and their capability to recall it. b. students must be able to decompose the text. intent and illustrations. An essay or a book is a complete piece of writing with built-in main ideas. Ability to identify main ideas and draw inferences When writing a piece of text. Of course. in the comprehending process. in order to explore how the building was constructed and what it has in its internal space. they may equate the two different actions or get confused. and seems to have nothing different from a complete building with full rooms and interior decoration. That said. 2009) 2. The first sentence describes a princess’s breaking the bottle on the bow of the ship to bless its launching. and the second one describes a waitress’s breaking the bottle probably in the ship’s dining room.2. people cannot just stand outside and look but they have to enter it and visit every room until the dead end of the building. the meaning of a text cannot always be retrieved within the text per se. organize and construct paragraphs and sentences to support the thesis statement. if readers are unacquainted with the term “ship christening”. the writer has to develop his or her writing from a point of view. (Jookyoung Jung.“Second Language Reading and the Role of Grammar” by Jookyoung Jung) to illustrate this point: a. Similarly.3. identify the body structure and find out where the main idea lies 7 . If the readers are familiar with “ship christening”.

in the text. He sits motionless. Hirsch. the students have to discover the invisible parts of the text. “Reading comprehension depends on the reader filling in blanks and silently supplying enough of the unstated premises to make coherent sense of what is being read” (E. D. He reads it. emotions. That is to say. Graesser. On the other hand. 2003). The tears start to fall. and Katja Wiemer-Hastings (1999): A diner. causal antecedents. She leaves. The young woman gets up from the table. A couple sits down at a table. She takes a letter out of her purse. 1999). Peter Wiemer-Hastings. and Katja Wiemer-Hastings. Peter Wiemer-Hastings. The following is an example taken from “Constructing Inferences and Relations during Text Comprehension” by Arthur C. Soon he is stunned. The young woman has a distressed look on her face. Graesser. events or situations. but “these inferences include the superordinate goals. and perhaps traits of people” (Arthur C. Being able to locate the main idea will help readers get access to the author’s conception and purpose. when reading. At this point. Readers can infer ‘a couple sits down at the table’ as that they are going to have food and a conversation. She slides it to the young man. the ability to draw inferences from contexts is also required. ‘Soon he is stunned’ is a ‘causal antecedent’ 8 . which is the ‘superordinate goals’. From this piece of text. The readers in fact do not need to make inferences that explain the described actions. The young man lifts up the letter. She stares at the floor. Jr. a range of inferences can be made. background knowledge will play its role in making references. ‘She slides it to the young man’ can be inferred that the woman wants the man to read the letter..

it will now be generated. Students should start practicing and raise their skill to a higher level as a habit every time they read a piece of text.which can be inferred that the letter has some bad news to the man. 1988:2). 2. Also.3. According to Anderson (2003). according to Carnine. Silbert. Really. 2. a purpose for reading will affect the way the reader reacts to a passage and which comprehension he or she applies. If the background knowledge has not been obtained yet. This inference will be established and reinforced with the two sentences ‘He sits motionless’ and ‘The tears start to fall’. Reading with a purpose “A student who does not read because of lack of motivation does not get the practice he needs in reading skills” (Stepherd.1. before grabbing a text to read. SELF-IMPROVING READING COMPREHENSION SKILLS Reading comprehension is a skill that can only be improved through continual practice. Now most of the readers can deduce a reasonable antecedent event that this couple breaks up when or before comprehending “She leaves”. students should ask themselves why they are reading certain material and determine what exactly their intention of reading is. Reading without knowing the goal is like sailing a ship to the faraway ocean and being stuck in the water.3. a purpose for reading is important for the comprehension task of a student. and Kameenui (1990:45). Hence. a background knowledge that may be obtained from watching films or observing real life appears as a medium. During the inference process. purposes of reading can be classified into two general 9 . in Simanjuntak.

2. Before starting to read a text. a student may only scan the text for main ideas and key information. Developing and activating background knowledge Students need to build and broaden background knowledge to prepare for their acquisition of comprehension. They can try reading different kinds of materials and try not to limit themselves to any types of documents. topical to academic ones. students should read as many texts as possible. Having knowledge of a wide range of topics will increase the degree of comprehension in texts.3. With different purposes. comparisons. “What is the text likely to mention?”. for example. 2. how students read a text depends on their purposes. or he or she just reads the whole text without reviewing it for relax. and match what they knew to what is written. Clearly identifying purposes of reading will help students use their time and serve their interest effectively. etc. Students should look at the title and raise some questions such as “What am I going to read about?”. it is necessary to recall prior knowledge related to the topic and integrate it into the text when reading. Besides. students can try to make associations. As said. then find the answers as well as evoke previous knowledge or experiences to link to what students are going to read.groups: “reading for information and reading for pleasure”.. especially newspapers to have the latest updates about the world and materials related to the student’s field of study. so that various kinds of information can be obtained. from entertaining. the way they read a newspaper or a magazine is different from the way they read academic materials. During reading. or critically read the whole text and then review it for deeper insights. students should recall as much as possible the information they have 10 . After reading.

read and consider how interested they get and how much they already knew about the subject as well. (c) The hippie smoked a marijuana cigarette. Furthermore. Below is an example provided by Hirsch in his book “Reading Comprehension Requires Knowledge of Words and the World”: (a) He smoked a cigarette. especially that in a second language. and even fail in future reading as well since there are chances that they encounter those words again. Improving vocabulary and grammar It is not easy to deal with a large amount of vocabulary. students can still expand their vocabulary as much as possible to have an advantage in reading comprehension.. 2. In vocabulary building. However. Most students at university level use advanced dictionaries which provide extensive meanings of words besides the original ones. an event or an action in various contexts. Hirsch. 2003). students should not skip unfamiliar words or they will fail to fully understand the text. In addition. “When a person “knows” a word. D. (d) The 13-year-old smoked his first cigarette 11 .3. he knows more than the word’s definition—he also knows how that word functions in different contexts” (E. the use of dictionary is always valuable. as well as related words and phrases and grammatical correlations. (b) The psychologist smoked his pipe.3. students should identify how the words are used to describe or express a meaning. Jr.

So. which has the definition of verb as “to inhale and puff the smoke of (a cigarette. That said. which is large and increasing from time to time. Perfetti. they can try breaking a long sentence into smaller parts. Although in the sentences above the meaning of the verb “smoke” fits its definition in general. Sometimes just recognizing words is not enough because the students do not remember or identify the sentence structures. Nicole Landi. Students still have to review their knowledge of grammar regularly.)” (Random House. the following sentence can be separated like this (example by Charles A.These are illustrations for the use of the word “smoke”. in (c) it is “a deeper and longer inhaling in”. only by considering the verb “smoke” in different contexts will students be able to see how its meaning changes and shifts. and in (d) it is “an inhaling followed by coughing and choking” (as explained by Hirsch). the actions described are various: in (a) it is “a typical smoking action”. If students encounter difficulties. Unlike vocabulary. For instance. and get confused about some kinds of clauses and phrases. as well as verb forms and tenses used in the passage. in (b) it is “a puffing in”. In general. students coming into universities have already had an intermediate level of English grammar they obtained from high schools. etc. 1978) as quoted by Hirsch. 12 . look closely at how the sentences are constructed. and try to learn as many as possible grammar points that they have not already known. grammar does not enlarge itself but has rules and is complicated. and Jane Oakhill. underlining key words and then try to figure out the function of each word or phrase. 2004): A cat is / holding hands with a man / that is / holding hands with a woman. when reading students should also learn grammar from the text.

2.3. the central topic of a text is developed by paragraphs. and sentences in a paragraph must support its main idea. This sentence contains the focus for the writer while writing and the readers while reading. but it is worth it since the knowledge that students gain is more valuable. there is a topic sentence stated at the beginning. or from the structure of some specific forms of text. The topic is the general theme or the subject of writing. in the middle or at the end. Sometimes the topic can be pointed out from one or two words repeated.5. In fact. students can underline or take note so that it comes to the front not only now but also in future reviews. Identifying topic and main ideas Identifying the topic of a text is essential to reading. To foreshadow what is presented in the text. Understanding paragraph structures will help a lot in this task. students should start with the title and ask themselves “What is this about?” When reading paragraphs in the text.Of course. efforts need to be made to struggle with too complex structures. the meanings are not exposed on the surface but implied under the written words. students have to locate mean ideas of each paragraph. As we know.4. Making inferences The process of inference is important for deep comprehension of students. for example. 2. A writer does not always tell us directly what he or she wants to mean. Students have to 13 . In every paragraph. To successfully comprehend a text. students keep asking that question until they find a clear answer. When the topic sentence is found. in an essay the topic lies in the thesis statement in the introduction.3.

3.2. Inferring from examples Sometimes the author will provide certain examples in the context and the meaning is implied by them. and often invite friends over to their homes for dinner?” will help generate an inference for the meaning of “gregarious”. 14 .5.“read between the lines” for deeper understanding based on hints or clues offered by the author. like in the sentence below: Those who enjoy belonging to clubs. Answering the question “What words describe people who belong to clubs. Inferring from general sense Some words may have meanings covered by a general sense of its context.3.1. or imprisoned’ then students have correctly inferred the meaning of this word.5. go to parties a lot. If students’ answers are like ‘social’ or ‘people who enjoy the company of others’ then they have had the right answer. consider the word “incarcerated” in the following sentence: Murderers are usually incarcerated for longer periods of time than robbers. and inviting friends often to their homes for dinner are gregarious. Theoretically. 2. students can rely on some modes for making inferences. 2. Students can try inferring the meaning of “incarcerated” by answering to the question “What usually happens to those found guilty of murder or robbery?” If the answers are like ‘they are put in jail. For example. going to parties.

‘afraid’. Again. Similarly. 3. or ‘fearful’. For instance: Ben is fearless. Inferring from antonyms and contrasts In other cases. then what word describes Jim?” to find the meaning of “timorous”. This word has the meaning close to ‘timid’. this paper is only a small portion in the study of reading comprehension and needs to be developed further.3. and that is the answer. the meaning of a word may be implied by an antonym or a contrasting point.2. readers should have been informed about some basic skills required for a student’s reading comprehension and how to improve those skills on their own. but Mom's reaction was one of total disbelief.5. Still. students can answer the question “If Ben is fearless and Jim is very different from Ben with regard to fear. After all. 15 . students now try to infer the meaning of “credence” by answering the question “If Mom's reaction was disbelief and Dad's reaction was very different from Mom's. Below is an example to illustrate for drawing inference from a contrast thought: Dad gave credence to my story. CONCLUSION Coming to this part. I hope that the paper can accompany the students like a handy material and aid them in enhancing their proficiency in reading comprehension. but his brother is timorous.3. what was Dad's reaction?” They can easily think of ‘belief’ as a contrast to ‘disbelief’ in the sentence.

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