Active Reading summarized from John Bean, Engaging Ideas, Chap. 8

Roots of poor student reading skills

  • Assuming that reading should be speed reading, not laborious and slow Failing to adjust reading strategies for different texts and circumstances
  • Failing to perceive an argument’s structure as they read Difficulty in assimilating or accepting the unfamiliar
  • Failing to see the rhetorical/cultural context in which a text exists Difficulty in seeing themselves engaged in the text’s broader conversation
  • Failing to know the allusions and cultural references of a text Possessing an inadequate vocabulary, and resistance to looking up words
  • Difficulty in understanding complex and unfamiliar syntax Failing to see how discourse varies from discipline to discipline

Strategies for helping students become better readers

  1. Show students how your own reading process works, especially how you vary reading strategies
  2. Show students your own notes, marginalia, quotations, etc.
  3. Encourage students to use the dictionary. Try to get them to tick off one unknown word per page and define it; offer extra credit, in-class writing based on vocabulary
  4. Teach students two levels of glossing: SUMMARY (what it says) and RHETORIC (what it does) for each paragraph. Then add a third level: REACTION (what do you think?)
  5. Have students present reports, notes for texts not covered in class
  6. Try non-graded pretests, collaborative brainstorming or writing before a text is assigned
  7. Present two readings from sharply contrasting perspectives to show the impact of authorial frame of reference. Have students do brief research/presentations on authors to help understand their perspectives
  8. Unlock cultural codes in a text through discussion and student-generated reading guides
  9. Have students realize all texts are persuasive. Have students write down their beliefs on a topic before and after reading a text.
  10. Teach students to role-play, first as a believer in a text, second as a skeptic

Assignments to help student improve their reading skills

  1. Have students turn in photocopies of texts with their marginal notes
  2. Have students keep column notes, where you provide subject headings for each column
  3. Have students keep two-column journals, one column for summary, one for response
  4. Have students keep an open-ended record of engagement with a text
  5. Devise reading questions and make students respond in writing to them
  6. Ask students to write dialogues with the author, or several authors assigned
  7. Have students write abstracts of articles
  8. Have students map, or outline, the writer’s argument
  9. Have students devise multiple-choice or essay test questions on readings
  10. Have students write translations, or reading guides, for classmates, other classes, succeeding students, etc.
Faculty Excellence sidebar image

For info, contact:
Tim Doherty &
Naomi Schoenfeld
Co-directors
tdoherty@rivier.edu
nschoenfeld@rivier.edu  

Efaculty Portal button  

Visit Regina Library Button