Something that happens numerous times in my classroom is when students approach me and ask “How can I improve my test scores for exams?”

I’ve noticed that good readers usually have more developed higher order thinking skills and computer-based or virtual learning skills and therefore they are better test takers. Therefore, it is important to have these skills before taking an exam because students need to have a decent level of both before preparing for tests or exams. It is not a quick or easy process to acquire these skills, but one that requires dedication to the development.

When I ask students “How much do you read?”, the most common response is, “Not that much.” After hearing their response, I challenge students to transform their habits. I explain that they need to read at least an hour a day. Students can read books, magazines or newspapers, but it is essential that they accommodate their individual reading level.

The ideal reading level will be simple enough for the student to comprehend, but challenging enough to allow for progress to higher levels of reading and new vocabulary. When each student reads at their prescribed level, learning occurs at an accelerated rate while still allowing the student to make connections in real-world experiences and observations through books, newspapers, and magazines.

 

The Importance Of Reading

Science proves that right now your own brain is actively engaged as you are reading my article; assuming you are enjoying the content. Your brain is actively working through the process of changing letters into words (or symbols) and your brain then takes these symbols and associates them with a previously understood meaning, converting their structure into language and understanding.

It’s not a simple process, but very complex and challenging for many inexperienced readers. According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, low-level readers fall within the lowest level of cognition:  knowledge and comprehension. How do I challenge low-level readers to move forward to higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy? How can you achieve the same goal?

Students need to put the necessary time into reading. We have all heard that “practice makes perfect” and this is a great example of that saying. There is no easy path to successful reading, except reading. Again, my suggestion is at least one hour per day.

 

Benefits Of Reading Books

Once readers put the time reading what the author is trying to convey, they will start to form opinions about the information presented. Readers must decide to agree, disagree or solve a problem related to the text they just read. Once students engage in this type of thinking, readers begin to participate in Bloom’s higher level of cognition which involves analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

In the 1950s, Benjamin Bloom, an educational psychologist, and his colleagues developed a classification system identifying different levels of cognition that defined both lower and high order thinking.  The six levels within the cognitive domain are from lower to higher: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.

Higher-order thinking is the ability to think beyond rote memorization of facts or knowledge. Rote memory recall is not really thinking. Higher order thinking skills involve actually doing something with the facts that we learn.  When students use their higher order thinking skills that means they understand, they can find connections between many facts, they can manipulate them, and put them together in new ways. Most importantly they can apply them to find new solutions to problems.

Students with poor reading comprehension skills may be able to answer concrete questions or recall details. They can usually name characters or places. But they may have a difficult time summarizing information, or comparing one story to another, or using new information to reach new conclusions. Making inferences, identifying the big picture or moral of a story, distinguishing opinions from facts, or finding biases are also skills very difficult – if not impossible – for the reader with poor reading comprehension skills.

One of the goals of reading is to make new connections to our life and world.  Readers who can use higher order thinking not only show knowledge and understanding of the text, they can put the information in new contexts and form relations between ideas.  (Marshall, 2013)

 

Advantages Of Reading Books

The less time you spend in front of a screen, the better. You’re not damaging your eyes. If you want to sleep, you shouldn’t be looking at a computer screen for at least a half-hour before bed. The blue light emitted from the screen reduces the naturally occurring melatonin in your brain. Melatonin regulates your natural ability to fall asleep. Reading a book solves these problems.

As students continue to read on a regular basis, they will inevitably encounter new vocabulary in their reading. This is beneficial for the student to be exposed to new language and develop a more extensive vocabulary through which to express themselves.

In my personal experience, as the saying goes, “If I had a nickel for every time” a student asked what a word meant, I would no longer have to teach to pay the bills. Exposure to unknown ideas sparks students’ curiosity and cause them to question further. Students begin to wonder what words mean and will then seek answers to satisfy their curiosity.

New vocabulary is a challenging, but essential for students to obtain. Instead of just giving the definitions to their word questions, have students find answers on their own. The first tool to provide your students is the dictionary. Looking in the dictionary can and will be an adventure for your students because they will discover word origins and previous uses of the word throughout its history. Such a discovery process allows students to forge new and authentic connections to the world around them and is crucial for improving reading skills needed for each year’s new GED test.

 

Advantages Of Online Learning

A key part of learning for testers is the opportunity for virtual learning – or learning via the use of online resources such as the internet, social media, or computer software. This virtual learning is especially important for students who may not have access to more traditional in-person learning opportunities that others do to develop this critical thinking. By having access to the Internet or other online resources, students are granted a cost-effective way to access the information they need to become better readers and test-takers.

 

Virtual learning comes in several forms:

Computer-Based: Instruction is not provided by a teacher; instead, the instruction is provided by software installed on a local computer or server. This software can frequently customize the material to suit the specific needs of each student.

Internet-Based: This is similar to computer-based instruction, but in this case, the software that provides the instruction is delivered through the Web and stored on a remote server.

Remote Teacher Online: Instruction is provided by a teacher, but that teacher is not physically present with the student. Instead, the teacher interacts with the student via the Internet, through such media as online video, online forums, e-mail and instant messaging.

Blended Learning: This combines traditional face-to-face instruction, directed by a teacher with computer-based, Internet-based or remote teacher online instruction. In effect, instruction comes from two sources: a traditional classroom teacher, and at least one of the forms of virtual learning described above.

Facilitated Virtual Learning: This is computer-based, Internet-based or remote teacher online instruction that is supplemented by a human “facilitator.” This facilitator does not direct the student’s instruction, but rather assists the student’s learning process by providing tutoring or additional supervision. The facilitator may be present with the learner or communicating remotely via the Web or other forms of electronic communication (Van Beek, 2011).

As students increase their time spent reading and using virtual learning, they inevitably progress on the scale of Bloom’s Taxonomy towards higher level thinking.  The predictable advantages that accompany learning through reading are my main motivation for encouraging students to spend time here. The more often they read, the better they perform in testing and exams. Emphasizing extended reading along with virtual learning in your classroom and see how much better your students will perform in their tests and exams. Just remember to take advantage of paper-based reading where you can as well. 

 

References

Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (Eds.). (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of educational objectives: Complete edition.New York: Longman.

 

Anderson, L.W., & Sosniak, L.A. (Eds.). (1994). “Bloom’s taxonomy: a forty-year retrospective.”            Ninety-third yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, Pt. 2. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

 

Bloom, Benjamin S. & David R. Krathwohl. (1956). “Taxonomy of educational objectives: The                  classification of educational goals, by a committee of college and university examiners.”                Handbook 1: Cognitive domain. New York: Longmans.

 

Marshall, Pam. (2013). Retrieved from: http://www.k12reader.com/reading-comprehension-and-higher-order-thinking-skills/

Van Beek, Michael. (2011). Retrieved from: https://www.mackinac.org/14475

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