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Ideas and Their Relationships as a Reading Comprehension Strategy

Module by: Mark Pettinelli. E-mail the author

Summary: Ideas and Their Relationships as a Reading Comprehension Strategy

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To make reading comprehension better understood a new definition of the word “idea” has to be used, as in this example:

The sentence “I go to the store” could consist of one idea, two ideas, three ideas or more. One idea would be just the sentence; it being two ideas could be “I” and the second idea could be “go to the store”; if three ideas it would be “I” as the first, “go” as the second and “to the store” as the third idea. The idea “go” could be, if you don’t understand the rest of the sentence (and therefore wouldn’t associate it with the rest of the sentence) just the generic meaning for “go”. The idea of “I” is just the idea of yourself, and the idea of “to the store” would be the idea of something or someone going to the store. Those three parts of the sentence interact in a flow chart, “I” is first, then arrow towards “go” then arrow towards “to the store”.

You could break the sentence down into infinite parts as the idea of you is really the idea of you in different situations, or just how you think about yourself differently. The idea of store could be broken down into a made up store with different parts. Even if those parts of the store (like the items in it) aren’t mentioned in the sentence, it is important to understand that stores have items in them in order to comprehend the entire sentence, (as a generic store has items in it) therefore the idea of store is really many many more ideas itself. Sentences, paragraphs, books can be broken down into one or more ideas, an idea is just a unit of thought, no matter the size.

A sentence is just a group of ideas so if an entire sentence is too complicated break it down into the smallest unit of ideas that are related. Break it down into the biggest groups of ideas that are related that you understand or the one idea that you understand. Take the biggest idea that you understand and put it down; Therefore the misunderstanding of the sentence comes from the link that they don’t understand, so think more about it. If this fails then you can flow chart it in your brain or on paper. In breaking down the sentence if the parts don’t relate, they don’t relate because it could be independent – there are dependent and independent ideas and they may not relate; or one part may be dependent upon another. One part may be more related to a certain part than to another. You can take a simple sentence and break it down into words; an idea may also be one word so you can take the simplest sentence and break it down just as a template for what you would do for larger sentences.

There are many types of relationships that can be formed in a sentence. Here are some of the big ones.

  1. is, are, was, or will be doing* (this is the relationship between a subject and a verb, the subject is doing the verb) so the relationship between I and run in the sentence “I run” is that you “are doing” the running.

* So to understand the relationship of what “is doing, or has done, or will do” one needs to understand what a subject is in a sentence and what a verb is in a sentence, or instead of the use of the word sentence there you could use the phrase “idea with a subject and a verb” also known as a sentence. If the student is showed what a subject and verb are, and told to identify the subjects, verbs, ideas, and relationships between the ideas in the sentence, the entire sentence would be understood. As said before there can be infinite ideas in a sentence or in a word, however there are usually only a few ideas that are intended to be communicated by the author, and these are the ideas that need to be identified. In the sentence “I go to the store” the main idea is that you go to the store, so in that one there is one main idea that was intended to be communicated by the author.

  1. performs an action (on) (contains a verb)
  2. does not perform an action (on) (does not contain a verb)
  3. relative to
  4. describes
  5. modifies
  6. directional words/description – to the left of, this far away from, above, near, around
  7. hidden
  8. and
  9. but
  10. because
  11. greater
  12. less
  13. equal to
  14. therefore
  15. leads to
  16. as part of
  17. as a consequence of
  18. although
  19. if
  20. is not
  21. equal to
  22. is happening to
  23. happen
  24. because of
  25. inferior
  26. subordinate
  27. superior
  28. connected to
  29. not connected to
  30. goes with
  31. does not go with
  32. in addition to
  33. not including
  34. A relationship that shows a transition
  35. A relationship is a transition to or from
  36. Transition to
  37. transition from / does not show a transition from
  38. does not show a transition to

If a certain part of a sentence relates or refers to directly or indirectly another part of a sentence then you should figure out the connection between those two first, based on the stronger connections first (the stronger connections that you can see in the sentence, it might be that there is a stronger relationship between other parts but since you haven’t figured out the sentence you don’t know that yet). You do that because those parts of the sentence/paragraph you understand better already, and therefore you are closer to understanding them fully more easier than understanding the less strong relationships (relationship strength as it appears to you at that point in your understanding that is). Usually stronger connections would occur with ideas that are right next to each other, or closer to each other because sentences are cohesive and one idea more often leads directly to the next, not an idea further away from it in the sentence. So if the relationship between two ideas is stronger than that between two other ideas, it is going to be easier to determine the relationship between the two stronger ideas because your mind recognized that there is a stronger relationship, and since you mind identified a stronger relationship, that means that you have more data to go off of to figure out what the real relationship is. The real relationship might be that there is no relationship, and that a part of the sentence/paragraph is independent. So in that case the strongest relationship you can identify would be the independent part of the sentence, because you know for certain that it has little connection to the other parts of the sentence. That leads to the understanding that parts of the sentence are independent and dependent on other parts of the sentence to different degrees, that is they relate to each other by certain amounts, some relate more to each other and some relate less. Identifying that will help disambiguate the sentence.

Parts of the sentence with stronger connections are easier to identify than parts of the sentence with weak connections even if you are still in the process of figuring out the sentence. That is if you have more data to go on about the relationship between two parts, then that connections is going to be easier to solve than the relationship you don’t understand. So it is better to solve the relationship you understand better first because you have more data. That is, it doesn’t matter if the connection between two other parts is going to be stronger when the sentence is figured out, you have to just go by what is the strongest connection you can identify at that point in your understanding. Trying to identify the strength of a relationship is another way of asking, “what is the relationship”. It will help determine if the part of the sentence is independent or dependent. So the first thing to do would be to eliminate the independent parts of the sentence, as you already understand how those parts relate. Then if there is a group of related ideas relate those ideas together, because the total connection between say three or more ideas will be greater usually than the connection between two ideas, and we already decided to figure out the larger connections first. Unless the connection to you between the two ideas is stronger, that is. After you figure out the relationship between the parts you have identified as strongest related to each other you should then have more data about how the other two parts of the sentence are related to each other, since all parts of a sentence are related that means that data about the connections between some adds data about the connections between other parts of the sentence.

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