12 Things You Can Do Right Now To Read Better, Improve Learning, and Understand More

You might think that becoming a better reader is a big secret, but it’s totally not. Here are 12 things you can do right now to read better and improve what you remember and understand:

1. Look for connections: Ask yourself what you already know about the topic that you have to read. Draw a mind map or make a list of your answer.connect

2. Predict the content: Try and make an intelligent guess about what you have to read. Use anything you can to help make your prediction.


3. Identify the main ideas: If you can, get a pen and underline or highlight what you think are the main ideas. Then rank these for importance.


4. Work out the structure: Think about what kind of thing you are reading? Is it a letter? A persuasive argument? An editorial? Facts from a workbook? Cause and effect? Problem and solution?


5. Look at the first sentence: The first sentence in any paragraph is called the topic sentence. If it’s well written, it will tell you what the entire paragraph is about. Just read these.

Topic Sentence

6. Use typography: Typography just means things like bold, underline, and italics. Use these as clues and try and figure out what they are there for. Extend this to headings and subheadings as well.


7. Read between the lines: Try and work out what the writer is not saying. Form an opinion or make a guess.


9. Look at the pictures. This one is pretty obvious, but use the pictures to help you think of questions (see next).


8. Visualise: Make a picture in your mind about what you are reading. If you can, draw it.


10. Ask questions and look for answers: ask yourself questions about everything as you read, e.g. the meanings of words, the structure, what’s coming next, how it’s relevant to you.

ask more questions

11. Get help when you stop understanding: This means talking to someone else or doing some research. You might talk to a friend, a teacher, or pose a question on an online discussion forum.

get help

12. Be aware of which of these strategies you are using when you’re using them: The best readers know they are doing these things when they are doing them.


How do you improve maths and numeracy learning? Ask these four questions


Ace maths and numeracy blogger Damon Whitten has written a couple of great posts here and here recently on how things you can do to improve maths learning for kids.

I think his suggestions apply to adults as well. It’s super simple and boils down to this – ask the following four questions:

  1. “What did you do yesterday?” Expect details.
  2. “How did you work that out?” Don’t help and don’t give away the answer.
  3. “Can you show me using this… Can you draw it?” Make them use physical objects or draw pictures to explain.
  4. “If someone was going to make a mistake with this, where would they make the mistake” Make them talk through the problem.

There are good reasons for all of these… and they’re backed up by research as well. But you’ll need to read Damon’s articles to get the rest of the explanation.

How to learn anything: Part 1


Let’s face it. Learning stuff can be hard. It’s not easy to go through a new learning curve for new content that you need for work, study, or even just for a hobby.

However, what if it was possible for you to learn anything?

Find an expert right? Get a teacher or a tutor? Join a course? Find a Guru? Go to college or university? Read a book even… Watch youtube videos…

But there’s a problem: People that are really good at whatever it is that you want to learn, aren’t always the best teachers. So you can’t always get the tools that you need from the masters or the experts. Or even from their books.

There’s reasons for this of course. Often it’s because the people that are really good at something, really outstanding at what they do, are often so immersed in their own stuff that they just can’t see or understand that you (and me) don’t already know what they know.

Experts, specialists, master practitioners often become so close to their own content that they simply assume – without meaning to and without awareness that they’re doing this – that you already have certain foundational building blocks in place for whatever it is they want to tell you.

And we’re all guilty of this actually. And just have a think about it. If you’re in business, and unless you’ve got an accounting background, do you really understand what the last thing was that your hot-shot accountant said to you? Or your mortgage broker? Or your IT specialist?

What about if you’re at university, or in a technical or vocational training course, or even at high school? Did you even grasp part of what the Economics teacher just said? Or the electrician? Or the doctor?

You might think that what you’d need is some kind of secret sauce perhaps… Some kind of pill to make you smarter or able to concentrate hard or work better…?

Perhaps not.

What you’d really need is a toolbox of tools to help you. This toolbox of tools would be your super learning system.

Hopefully, it would be a system that you could use again and again with new and different content. It would evolve and develop with you as you evolve and develop.

Learning new stuff will still be hard. It often is. But you can make it better by having the right tools. The right tools for the right job.

What we’re experiencing is an exponential growth in knowledge right now. More and more people are becoming more and more specialised in narrower and narrower fields.

It’s overwhelming. Confusing. Intimidating.

But what if the tools and the toolbox you needed was really simple… really straightforward… What if this toolbox contained a lot of things that you already know and use.

And what if the tools didn’t depend on smart… but on grit.

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. Not everyone is smart… but perhaps grit is something you can learn too… something that everyone has access to already if they just switch it on in their brain and body.

What if I could show you this toolbox of tools? Would you find something to apply it to?

What would you learn if you could learn anything?

Hacking Learning – Mini Podcast

Time to practice those new and fairly raw podcasting skills. Here’s the audio of a post from a few days ago:

How to teach anything, improve learning, and help people do stuff better

Teach anything

I want to write a book. Not sure what the title will be, but I’d like this – or something similar to be the byline or subtitle. I’d like it to mainly be a picture book. Something you could give to anyone. Like the kind of book you’d pick up in an airport.

Now I just need some content… and that pesky title…