Reading for Speed and Comprehension

Reading for Speed and Comprehension  – The SQ3R Method

I already know how to read!Reading-297450

I hear this from students a LOT – often with a roll of their eyes.

Yes, you know how to read.  You know how to decode words; and, hopefully, you have some comprehension that goes along with that reading.

Reading texts or textbooks is quite different – or should be.

You generally don’t read a menu in the same way as you read a novel or a comic book.  There are different methods for different reading material.

Using a READING METHOD will not only help you remember the material but also, with practice, will speed up your studies!

I strongly recommend that you use the following method – or one very similar to help you.

The SQ3R Method (developed by Francis P. Robinson)

S          –          Survey

Q         –          Question

R         –          Read

R         –           Recite

R         –          Review

What’s the big deal?

Here is the deal!


When you need to read a chapter from your textbook or online, take a few moments to survey the entire chapter.  Look at pictures, headings, sub-headings, the chapter outline, chapter summary, and review questions.  At this point you are simply familiarizing yourself with the chapter (or some other text).


Next, you will create questions for yourself from the headings and sub-headings.  For example in a geology textbook, you might come across the sub-title “Cinder cones.”  What are cinder cones?  Later you see “Composite cones.”  What are composite cones?  What is the difference between cinder cones and composite cones?


Now you begin to read.  This is the step most students begin with, so they have had no warm-up.  Their brain “muscles” are coming in COLD!  While reading, look for the answers to the questions you asked.  You can also look for answers to any questions posed within the chapter.  Now you are actively reading and engaging with the material.  Most students begin reading and are generally reading passively.  In other words, they aren’t getting much out of this first reading!


You can now recite the answers to your questions aloud (or “aloud” in your head if you are not able to speak in your study location).  Also, this is a great time to write notes.  Write down the questions you asked yourself, and then provide the responses in your own words.  (Of course, you will use words and terms from the textbook as well. More about this in later blog.)


Review the material right away.  After you finish the chapter, do a re-read of your notes.  Do they make sense?  Do you need to add something?  Is everything going to be clear a week from now? If not- you DO need to add something to clarify.  You might want to draw a diagram or provide some arrows to reveal connections or similarities, etc.

That would be so slow!

I agree that when you read the directions it seems like this method would take a long time.  But looks can be deceiving. Taking some time “up front” will save a lot of time and frustration later.

Having surveyed, asked questions,  and found the answers, you will already have learned far more than you would on a straight reading.

Taking notes, reciting, and reviewing will help solidify this knowledge.

Later, when you review your nightly notes and the week’s notes (revolving review) you will begin to see that you remember more and more even though you are reviewing quickly.  When it comes time to do a quiz or test, your review time will be shorter, yet you will have far better recall.

Use a reading method, and you will receive higher grades!

Even better, you will have learned the material more fully.  Next year, or next semester, will be even easier.  Your “network” of knowledge will be stronger with more connections and deeper connections.

Feeling like a genius yet?

Well, maybe not – but you never know. Use a reading method, and you are at least on your way to achieving your best results ever.

This week’s video:

Reading for Speed & Comprehension – the SQ3R Method

Don’t be shy.  Get in touch, ask a question, or leave a comment.

Of course, if you would like a personal coach, I would be thrilled to set up a program for you or your child.aaron-burden-236415



Frustrating Punctuation? Here is the solution.

Punctuation Made Easy!

Alert: Check out the awesome offer below.

(Can’t Wait?  Click here for the offer.)

Does punctuation sometimes drive you crazy?

Maybe, maybe not; however, a lot of people have difficulty knowing when to use a comma versus a semicolon.

What is a colon, anyway? (No, I’m not talking about the one in your body. Yuck.)

How do you use quotation marks correctly?  Wait! What!  There are double quotation marks and single quotation marks?  Nice way to make things even more difficult.

Writing well includes the proper use of punctuation.  I have read many stories and articles, including essays, speeches, and book reports, that have many great ideas and some excellent development; however, I have to re-read many of the sentences because they are not punctuated properly.

Any teacher, professor, or – for that matter – reader will tell you that he or she prefers to read a sentence only once before moving on.  Nobody wants to have to “decipher” what you meant to write.

If you want to start raising the grade TODAY, then learn to punctuate your sentences correctly, particularly when writing longer articles because they are the most challenging to read when they are not punctuated well.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, keep it simple!  Complicating matters does not help the reader, the teacher, the professor, the editor, or you.

Of course, as you become a better writer, you will use more complex writing, but you will do so with the tools to make it easy to read and to comprehend, regardless of its complexity.  Like any professional, you make it look easy when you really know how to do it.  One of those tools is knowing how to use punctuation.

So, don’t let punctuation drive you crazy any longer. normal_crazy_mean_dog

Here’s the awesome offer!


The Punctuation Made Easy course is in its final stages of development.

It will launch in October, and I have set up a pre-sell price of only $10.00!  (The listed price after launch will be $40.00.)

But wait there’s more!  (Okay – a bit cheesy, but there really is more.)

Register for the Punctuation Made Easy course and receive the following:


Upon registering:                       Student Survival Guide (32 page downloadable book)

After beginning the course:   Test & Exam Strategies course ($20 value for FREE)


You will receive discount coupons for three more optional courses:

  • Basic English Writing
  • Paragraph Writing
  • Essay Writing

                       All this for $10.00  Register Here!

Punctuation Made Easy

This course will help you improve your writing. With the right punctuation, your sentences and articles will shine! Step-by-step lessons and quizzes will solidify your knowledge.

Work at your own pace, own space, and own time.

Although the course is asynchronous, I do answer questions.

I also schedule free online question/answer sessions. (Optional)

 Over Twenty Lessons + quizzes

  • Introduction
  • End Punctuation – 3 lessons
  • Comma – 9 lessons
  • Semicolon
  • Colon
  • Apostrophe
  • Quotation Marks – 3 lessons
  • Other punctuation – dash, parenthesis, brackets, ellipsis, slash
  • Concluding bits

Don’t forget to register – the deal only lasts until launch!

This week’s video:    The Punctuation Made Easy course.

Remember, I would love to be your coach.  Check out the website or get in touch for further options and learning experiences.



Become an Excellent Listener and Get Positive Results!

Become an Excellent Listener and Get Positive Results!

Pardon, what did you say?sound-159915_640

Listening is not simply hearing.

I am sure that you have experienced many times when you “heard” something, but you did not pay attention to it and have no idea what the person said to you.

Of course, we can’t pay close attention to everything we hear each day, or we would go crazy.  We need to sort the important from the unimportant.  We need to “weed out” those bits of information that aren’t going to help us.

When you are studying, however, you can learn certain tactics to help you get into the zone so that you don’t miss the bits you really need.

You can train yourself to be a better listener.

Be Attentive

Sit up straight and look alive!  Don’t just “look” alive, but be alive.  Sometimes it takes a little effort to engage yourself in a particular topic or to listen to a speaker that does not automatically entertain, but you can train yourself to do better.

I know in today’s world that everyone wants splashes of colour, musical backgrounds, dancing ponies, and so on in order to learn; however, not only are these not necessary – they are often more distractions to learning than helpful additions.

Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit, especially with the dancing ponies, but you get my point. Not every teacher, not every class, not every book, has to “force” you by being entertaining ad nauseam to get you to learn.  The learning is actually your job!

Oh my God!  He said it.  I have to DO something!


Learning is up to you.

Not entirely, of course; but you are the main component.  So, here comes another horribly shocking fact.  If you don’t want to learn, you won’t.  If you find a subject boring, then that is your fault.  You need to do something about it.

Go into every class and every course with the attitude that you are going to get the most out of it.

You are going to be alive!

Make Eye Contacterik-lucatero-310633

If you are listening to a teacher, or even a student’s presentation, always try to make eye contact.  Your eyes are like a window, but they also reflect in some sense.  You probably have experienced this yourself sometimes.  You are talking to someone, and he or she keeps looking away or staring into space.  When this happens, you get the distinct feeling that they are not particularly interested in what you are saying.

What happens then?

Well, you abbreviate what you are saying, or you simply stop.  The speaker does not have any motivation or encouragement to keep going if the “listener” is not listening.

Social cues are very important.  If you are not attending to the teacher, he or she will know!  Trust me.  It doesn’t matter how large the class is either.  You might think you are “lost in the crowd,” but you are not.

Not only is it a courtesy to make eye contact and engage with the speaker, but you will learn a lot more.

Once the teacher knows you are not prepared to listen, your grade begins to fall.  The teacher might not even be conscious of this effect, but it will happen.

Not only that; but, if the classroom is filled with many non-attentive students, the teacher will not be encouraged to give as much as she or he would in front of a more positive group of actual listeners

It’s human nature!  We all need a little support to reach our best performance.

Help your teacher, and she or he will be able to help you even more!

(Note:  Don’t stare, of course – but make frequent eye contact.)

Be Open

While you listen (and make eye contact), think of possible questions rather than interrupting with your opinions (at first). You want to give the speaker – whether that is a teacher, professor, other student, etc. – a chance to present all of his or her ideas and explanations before making too many judgements.  Of course, you are always going to be thinking about what you agree with and what you don’t, and these thoughts can formulate your questions. But you want to remain open to new ideas, contradictory thoughts, opinions that you might automatically disregard under other circumstances but that could change depending on this presentation or argument.

Sit Near the Front

You will want to be able to hear the teacher / presenter.

You will have fewer heads bobbing in front of you and being distracting.  (Or entirely blocking the view.)

The instructor will notice (note above) that you have come to learn.

It will be easier to make eye contact and focus on the lecture rather than other students, movements, windows, etc.

Remember, you want to be in control.

Listen for Verbal Cues and Watch for Non-Verbal Cues

There are lots of possible verbal and non-verbal cues, but here are a few.

Repetition – If a teacher is repeating a point several times, it is likely because he or she sees this as important.  In other words, worth noting.

Slowing down – speaking very carefully.  (Don’t forget this.)

Speaking more loudly. (I’m driving this point home to you.)

Literal verbal cues such as saying, “Here is the clincher!” or “This piece is important.”

Listen for the words in the following list:

Most importantly, therefore, to summarize, as a result, on the contrary, first of all, for these reasons.

All of these (and more) are key words or phrases that should make you perk up your ears!

If your teacher is writing on the board, listen (and take notes).

If your teacher is deliberately making eye contact with several students as she or he is making a point, this is probably important.  Make sure you “zero-in” on what is being said.

If your teacher is gesturing dramatically (my grade 9 math teacher used to smash the chalk on the board whenever something very important was being delivered) – concentrate on what he or she is saying because these actions usually indicate important material.

There are always exceptions to the rule.  A teacher might become suddenly passionate about something completely unrelated to your algebra or essay writing assignment; however, if you are paying attention to these verbal and non-verbal cues, then you can sort the salient data from the chaff as you hone in on what is being said.

Avoid Classmates Who Like to Distract

It will be very difficult for you to follow all the advice given above if the classmates that are near you keep fidgeting, whispering, passing notes, texting, showing you their latest YouTube video finds or funny Facebook pictures, etc.

Get away from them during class.

Enjoy their antics, their great personalities, their humour, and their judgments and comments for the lunch hour or after school.  They could be the best friends ever outside of academics, but you need to take control when the learning is about to happen.

Remember that you have the power to take control of your learning.  Using these tips will help you become an excellent listener and get positive results.

A personal educational coach can help you or your child achieve the best results.

I would love to be your coach.Boy books


For more tips, check out this week’s video.

Listening Well

First Week(s) of Class

First Week of Class

 Listen carefully to what your teacher(s) has to say.

Everyone will be excited.sound-159915_640

Lots of noise and activity may be taking place.

Practise “tuning out” the buzz of activity when the teacher is making a point so that you don’t miss it !


Write down any important information.

  • what supplies does the teacher require you to have
  • do you need a separate binder for each subject or dividers in one binderImage
  • will you be keeping a journal for this course
  • are there certain methods she/he wants you to use for taking notes (if so – what are they – make a note of it!)
  • are there any papers, notes, notices on the board, or other information that you should pick up
  • is there an outline of the course material
  • is there a list of reading materials (books)

Use your student planner or agenda to keep track of assignments.  Don’t just jot down due dates, make a plan within your agenda for research, rough drafts, etc.  This will keep you from being “surprised” when you turn the page and see a major speech or essay is due on Tuesday!

If there is anything you don’t understand, try to ask the teacher.

After you receive all this information, make sure that your parents / guardians receive this information promptly to that they can help you gather the materials required.


Check back with this list over the next couple of weeks to make sure that you have gathered the correct materials and information and to make sure that you are following proper procedure (for taking notes, etc.)

Educational Coach

Another great idea is to employ an educational coach or tutor to help you achieve your goals.

It would be my pleasure to help you along the way:

Website:    aaron-burden-236415


This week’s video:  First Week of Class!

I Have an IEP, so I Can’t….Yes you CAN!

I Have an IEP, so I Can’t…. Yes you CAN!

Note: In the cases described below the students’ names have been changed for the purposes of privacy. Also, the descriptions would fit many of the students I have seen over the years.

Individualized Education Program

Just because you (or your child) have been identified or have been placed on an Individualized Education Program (IEP) it is not time to stop, relax, and do nothing to improve.

In fact, given the right resources and effort, many students can overcome the obstacles and challenges facing them.  The concept of an IEP is to aid one in getting a solid education.

It is NOT an excuse.

It is NOT a way out!

I know that many students do not see it this way, but too many do.

I have had many students in twenty years tell me, “I can’t do _______ because I have _______.”

Fill-in-the-blank:  ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Autism, Asperger’s, Downs Syndrome, etc.

To which the reply is, “Let’s see how you can do this regardless of _______.”

There are always many paths to achieve a similar result.  A student might need a scribe for final products, but he/she can still work at improving his/her ability to print or write.

Case #1jeshoots-com-219388.jpg

(This is only one of many I have seen that are similar.)

Meet Phil. Phil came to our initial free information meeting with his mom and dad.  He was a very quiet young man, aged 12 in grade 8.  I couldn’t quite tell whether he was naturally quiet or simply unhappy about meeting a tutor (it happens).  He seemed preoccupied with the extra long strand of hair that hung over his face. Both parents were fairly certain that he would not be able to physically print or write any of his assignments.  At the time, I did most of my work on paper, although I did not have any issue with his working on a computer if it became necessary.  He was being heavily accommodated at school, and they didn’t see much potential for any near term change in the writing department.  Once I started working with Phil, he did not request a computer, so I proceeded as I normally would.  On a longer writing task, I asked if he would like to use the computer, but he said he was fine with paper as long as he could do it his way.  No problem.

Was he a good writer / printer?  No – terrible in fact.  His handwriting was legible but barely.  There were loads of technical details that needed to be addressed, but these existed even when he sent me items that had been done on a computer for school.  For example, sentence structure, logical development, spelling (spellcheck and Grammarly® don’t catch them all!), punctuation, etc.

Over time, he rarely wanted to use the computer. He learned to use a dictionary (a book).  He learned to double space and tidied up his writing to a point that it was acceptable for most people.  He learned how to compose different kinds of sentences and use them in various articles.  He became a bit of a stickler on some occasions with correctness and checking his own work.

Was he perfect?  No – of course not.  The point is that Phil was a student who was not expected to write, so he didn’t.  When he was offered the challenge and given the support, he did!

It CAN happen.

A student might need more time to complete a quiz or test, but he/she can practice picking up the pace on less important tasks. Of course, not everyone is the same, so you might never be the fastest, neatest, most organized student, but you can be the best that you can be.  The whole point of education, in my humble opinion, is to improve oneself and to reach personal goals.  With no effort (or reduced expectations), you will never strive to attain the highest levels that you could reach.

Case #2eder-pozo-perez-32852

One of my grade 10 students, Sarah, needed to write the Grade 10 Literacy Test.  All students in Ontario are required to pass this test to receive their high school diploma.  I had been working with Sarah for a couple of years by this time, and I had a lot of confidence that she would have no issues with the test.  She was a bright girl in  many respects, and she was extremely entertaining with her stories.  She was on an IEP and was given extra time and a recording of the texts to help her with this test. After the test, I asked how she had done.  Of course, the scores were not available, yet – but I just wanted to know how she felt.  She was disappointed because she couldn’t get the recording to work and spent a lot of time with the machine.  Even with the extra time, she ran out of time because of the failing recording.  I asked her why she didn’t just read the stories herself because her reading skills were much improved, and she was quite capable of reading them.  She laughed and said, “I know, I know, but I was supposed to be able to use these recordings, so I just kept trying.”

She failed that part of the test and had to redo it the next year.  On the next try, she refused the option of having the recordings, and she passed with no difficulty – finishing the test in about the same time as everyone else!

Students often strive to reach the expectations set for them – high or low.

Let’s set them high enough.  Not out of reach – but high enough.

Use the Individualized Education Program to help you get more – not less – education.

Think of the accommodations and extra resources as temporary tools to help you bring up your game.  (Although some tools might be necessary for longer or forever in the end.)

Don’t Despair

If you see yourself as a living, breathing, learning machine – albeit with flaws you will have success.  By the way, we all have flaws or learning challenges of one kind or another.  I would definitely have been identified in school if they did such things at the time.

In over twenty years, I have never, ever, seen a student who tried his or her best lose ground.  He or she always grows and advances.

You aren’t your brother or sister

  • or mother, father, friend, enemy, Johnny down the street, etc.

You are You!

Your learning styles will be different.  Your goals will be different.  The methods you use could be very different.  But you can achieve a lot; and, usually what appeared to be so different at first begins to look quite familiar.

Those multiplication questions don’t scare you.

That essay was tough but…wait a minute, you got a better grade than you expected and it put you at par with others who used to be so far ahead.

Yes, it happens!


Do not allow the IEP to go stagnant.

Be sure to attend the meetings and question – challenge if necessary the goals and methods and any needed changes.

If your daughter is now finding it easy to finish the 75% math expectation, maybe it is time to increase the volume.

If you son finds concentrating far less of a chore, it might be time to reduce the extra time allowance.

Individual Education Program’s (IEP’s) should be dynamic and able to change.

Children don’t stay the same!  They go through multiple changes, some slowly, some quickly.  Children also mature at different rates.  The “so-called” windows are not the same for everyone.

Case #3aaron-burden-236415

Meet Sal.  He started as a young boy. He was shy at first but a very personable guy once he got to know people.  Quite a talker and very interested in music, television, and media in general.

Sal didn’t read in grade three or grade four, five, or six.  Most professionals at the time said he had missed the “window” for reading.  However, in grade seven, almost at once he began to read – not children’s books, but novels.

My guess is that all the teaching at school and the tutoring (done by yours truly), and the attention of parents, was in fact having an effect all the way along.  It just was not showing.  (In fact, he had a bad habit of ripping the pages out of books while he was “reading” before he was actually reading, and this was at an age when most people don’t destroy books.)

Sal went on to read all kinds of magazines, books, newspapers, etc.  He fell in love with doing crosswords.  Nobody would have predicted this in the year or even a few months before it happened.

I admit, this is the first and only time I have seen such a case – but if it can happen once, it can happen again.

Unfortunately, this rapid change did not occur for Sal’s math skills.  He never could quite grasp the idea of numbers and how they worked even in everyday situations.  He did manage to memorize what he needed to know, but he did not truly understand why or how numbers and math operations work the way they do.


If you go the route of an Individualized Education Program, treat it as a tool for expanding your learning, not limiting it.

Look to push the boundaries – and possibly break through the goals of the IEP.

Don’t worry, there are always new, higher goals to achieve!

I have absolute faith in you and your ability to learn.

If you want some extra coaching for yourself or your child, here is a great place to start.

I would love to help you on your journey.  julia-raasch-143428

This week’s video:

IEP – Not a Destination


Photo credits

Writing: Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Time:  Photo by Eder Pozo Pérez on Unsplash

Reading: Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash