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How to Improve your Reading Comprehension

by John McSherry

How to Improve your Reading Comprehension
Here is some advice for Intermediate (and struggling Advanced) students who still have trouble understanding what they read...Most of it is obvious, but students often seem to forget!
1. Don't go through the text translating every word. Highlight KEY words and phrases only. Look them up later...
2. Try to pick up the meaning FROM THE CONTEXT.  This means looking at the title and subtitles, pictures and scanning the first sentence of each paragraph before you get into the deep reading!
3. If you can't get the gist from the first three paragraphs, you may need to go back and read them again.
4. Make a note of the MAIN points (or at least underline them) as you go along. It's not always easy to find them again!
5. Focus on the questions (if there are any) before you start reading...This will help your mind not to wander!
6. When you think you've got the MAIN ideas, go back and look for details, for example; facts and figures; names; the exact meaning of words (in English as well as in your language!)
Now try to apply these techniques while reading this passage:

Aesop's Fable Lesson

1. The Ass and his Purchaser

A man who wanted to buy an Ass went to market, and, coming across a likely-looking beast, arranged with the owner that he should be allowed to take it home on trial to see what it was like. When he reached home, he put it into his stable along with the other asses. The newcomer took a look round, and immediately went and chose a place next to the laziest and greediest beast in the stable. When the master saw this he put a halter on him at once, and led him off and handed him over to his owner again. The latter was greatly surprised to see him back so soon, and said, “Do you mean to say you have tested him already?" "I don't want to put him through any more tests," replied the other. "I could see what sort of beast he is from the companion he chose for himself."


Moral : A man is known by the company he keeps.


Key Vocabulary Words and Phrases

An ass  = 
to come across =

to take home on trial = 
A stable =
A newcomer -=
greedy =
A halter =
A companion =  

Questions / Discussion

·                                 How did the man decide to keep or not keep the Ass?

·                                 Why did he decide not to keep the Ass?

Vocabulary Building - Make a list of words related to these categories presented in the fable:

§         markets - exchanging goods or services

§         animals - stables

Do you have any stories in your culture that has a similar message? If so, try to tell the story in English.
Tell a story of when you chose not to be friends with someone. Explain why.


If you enjoyed this lesson, please let me (and everyone) know by writing a report...

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