First of all I want you guys to know that I consider nobody and I mean nobody a slow learner. This stuff is technical and it takes time. If every now and again, I stick a shot up and start blathering on in techno speak, it's just to shut up the lurking snarks who might say who does that idiot think she is. So there will be no more talk of slow learners, ok.
Next, I want you to consider program mode (the letter P right next to the insidious green box or however else your camera has automatic) as automatic with options. That's right, program mode will do everything for you, but it also allows you to override it if you want to.
Now in order to pull up the histogram on a Nikon prosumer camera look for a button marked "disp" right next to the viewfinder. Push it down when you are in playback and voila, there is the histogram. I'm not sure how to do it in a Canon prosumer camera, but in my 50D, it is a button marked "info."
The exposure compensation option is displayed as a box, cut in half on the diagonal, one half is black and one half is white. Push that and you get the exposure compensation line. On some camera's it's vertical and on some it's horizontal. Think of stopping down as darkening incrementally and stopping up as lightening incrementally.
Happy shooting, next up will be curves.