Reading and Retention: How Can Teachers Help Students Balance Reading Assignments and Integrating Knowledge?

Group of young students reading colorful books outdoors
Group of young students reading colorful books outdoors

Teaching students to read is foundational to mastery of the English language. It’s also pivotal to the rest of their education going forward.

However, combining this skill with learning and retention over time is the essence of integrated literacy. The balance is crucial to true literacy success and the ability to gain and retain the information they take in.

It can be challenging for educators to accomplish this, especially if the classroom is comprised of diverse learners from a range of social and cultural backgrounds. However, there are key techniques that can make reading retention easier for all students in the classroom.

Below are ten ways teachers can help balance reading with learning:

1. Prime Students for Success

Taking steps to set the stage for success in reading retention can be invaluable. An organized syllabus and outline showing expectations for the class can pave the way for comprehension of the material. Outlines and handouts should include a summary of the key points and takeaways from the material.

2. Encourage Note-Taking

Many students benefit from taking notes as they are reading for an assignment. Make sure that students are shown the basics of note-taking and encourage them to keep their notebooks close at hand whenever they are engaged in a reading assignment. If they own the book they are reading, they may choose instead to underline, highlight or mark key points in the material.

3. Teach Memory Enhancement Cues

Cues that help connect key information to other areas can help with reading integration, as well as being able to recall the information down the road. Encourage readers to “connect” important points with related knowledge they already have. Teach them about acronyms and mnemonic devices that can help them to call up more complex information. For example, “HOMES” can be helpful for remembering the names of all the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior.)

4. Encourage Proactive Reading and “Overlearning”

Emphasize to students that reading for knowledge and retention is not a passive activity. They should work actively to retain the material. Taking notes, highlighting in a book, linking what they’ve read to what they already know, and creating memory helpers for complex concepts are all examples of active reading and making learning a priority.

5. Use Visual Retention Techniques

Many readers benefit from photos, diagrams, and other visual elements within a text to help them retain what is written. If the book does not include visual supplementation, consider providing charts, graphs, photos or illustrations. Students can also be encouraged to use a “mind mapping” style of note-taking, which starts with a central idea on paper and uses both words and images to help process and integrate what is being learned.

6. Repetition for Reading Retention

Long-term memory of educational material and concepts is enhanced through repetition. Encourage students to read important items and key material multiple times until they feel confident in their mastery of it.

7. Tests, Quizzes, and Exams

Research has shown that reading retention and memory are best enhanced through retrieval of what has been learned. Having students take regular quizzes and tests facilitates deeper learning and true comprehension of what has been read. While traditional written testing may be used, consider having the students create their own quizzes regarding the material. This will ensure a more thorough comprehension of what is being read.

8. Be Aware of Diverse Learning Preferences

While most children are visual, some are more kinesthetic (learn by feeling), and others are more auditory. Be mindful of these potential differences in learning styles and preferences. Strive to create activities that will resonate well with all types of learners. Social and cultural differences should also be honored and respected.

9. Combine Speed Reading with More In-depth Reading

Studies have shown that skimming over material before reading it line by line can help to improve comprehension and retention. Suggest that students try speed-reading material once through before settling in for a more thorough reading. Have them focus on the table of contents, as well as any bolded text throughout the material, in order to get a framework and sense of it.

10. Reviewing Before Bed

Research has also shown that studying right before sleeping can be very beneficial in retaining information going forward. Encourage children to review their notes on important topics right before bedtime to help ensure comprehension and retention.

In our rapidly changing world, the need for memory skills is more important than ever. Memory and retention are crucial to integrating written concepts into real world applications. Educators can use these tips and techniques to assist in finding a balance between reading mastery and creating an engaging curriculum to foster lifelong learning.