We know that we don't read everything in the same way with the same attention to detail. Some reading activities require deep attention, and others don't, but students don't always know this. They go about reading in the exact same manner, no matter the goal.
Here are some strategies that you can model and suggest when assigning reading that will help students to be more efficient and effective in their reading..
1) Skimming - getting the gist of something, getting a broad overview. This involves looking at chapter and section headings, reading the first sentences in paragraphs, summary sections, or the first and last paragraphs of the chapter. Readers should be ignoring details and reading just for the main ideas.
2) Scanning - looking through a text for specific information. Think of the way you look up a phone number in the phone book. You look in a very focused way for specific pieces of information, ignoring everything else so you can quickly find the info you are looking for.
3) Surveying - this strategy is great at the beginning of a semester, or when students are gathering materials for research papers. Students look broadly at the text, its table of contents, the index and bibliography, any abstract information available, introductions, forewords, or reviewer's comments in order to get a general idea of the scope and purpose of the text.
4) Detailed Reading - actively reading in great detail to learn new material. This is covered in more detail in the next section, Reading to Learn.
You can suggest any or a combination of several of these as you assign reading to students. Think about the goal of the reading assignment and coach students by modeling the way you would tackle the assignment you have given them.
Gillett, A. Using English for Academic Purposes. Retrieved July 18, 2007, from Using English for Academic Purposes Web site: http://www.uefap.com/reading/readfram.htm
1) Let students know the purpose of the reading. What will they have to do with the information?
- Discuss it - If so, what exactly will they be discussing - pros/cons, analysis of issues, evaluation of research?
- Apply it in a lab situation or to a problem set
- Describe it - in a group setting or presentation
- Recall it - to support lecture material
Giving students the purpose for the reading allows them to read strategically and with a focus
2) Do some pre-reading activities with your students. Review any important, new, or difficult vocabulary words that are going to appear. Give an overview of the reading or a concept map to provide a framework for the reading.
3) Explain to students the relevance of the reading. This reading is important because it...
4) Give students an opportunity to practice the different strategies listed above. Suggest appropriate strategies for different reading assignments until students can make the connection for themselves. Not all reading assignments require our full and deep attention. If skimming will do the trick, then suggest it.
Motivation - > Gap -> Strategies - >Reading to Learn
Now let's take a look at what's involved in reading to learn independently, a major leap for many college students.