For many college instructors, getting students to read their textbooks is a continuous struggle. Not only are students unmotivated to read, but even when students do read they often lack the necessary skills to fully comprehend the material. As a result, instructors may subtly or unwittingly communicate that reading the textbook is not necessary in order to pass a course. This communication can take the form of providing students with elaborate study guides or notes that summarize the reading or include all the answers to upcoming tests or quizzes.
Faced with these obstacles, I created the Reader’s Guide, a step-by-step exercise that students complete while reading their textbook material. It consists of three separate sections: (1) Planning, (2) Reading, and (3) Evaluation.
Within the planning stage, the reader is asked to engage in skimming, questioning, and evaluating the organizational structure of the assigned reading. These techniques are to be completed without any reading of the text. This prepares students to begin the process of setting reading goals, devising questions to be answered by the text and to begin preparing for the organization of the chapter.
In the planning stage, students are prompted with the following questions:
Before you begin reading …
1. What is the title of the chapter?
2. Name three questions you would like to have answered from this chapter?
3. What are the subheadings listed in this chapter?
4. For each subheading listed in question three, write one statement describing what you think the paragraph will discuss (based on the subheading).
5. What are the bold face words in this chapter?
6. Using questions 3 and 4, briefly put together an outline that effectively displays the organizational structure of this passage?
7. Skim each of the paragraphs, noting whether or not the paragraph will discuss what you predicted in question 4.
The next section in the Guide is the reading section. The reading section prompts the reader to begin reading the chapter and to underline important points, code sections of the text, take notes, elaborate on information, and monitor failures in comprehension.
In the reading stage, students are given the following instructions:
Read the chapter …
8. While reading the chapter, underline any ideas you believe are important.
9. While reading the chapter, write the following symbols next the sentences as you feel
they are necessary.
? = I have a question about this
A = I agree with this
D = I disagree with this
! = Interesting or important point
C = Confusing
10. Write down two ideas from the text that you believe your instructor may put on a test.
11. Using the two ideas from question 10, write down any information you knew about these items before reading the passage.
12. Can the information from the chapter be easily associated with the information you knew about these items prior to reading the chapter? Yes or No?
13. While you are reading, write down the number of times you noticed that you experienced a failure in comprehending the material? What did you do about it?
Finish reading the passage.
The last section requires the reader to engage in an evaluation process. Within this section, the reader is asked to reflect on his or her reading process and to summarize key points, and reflect on the piece to determine if all questions addressed during the planning stage were answered.
14. Looking back to question 2, were the questions you wanted answered by the chapter answered?
15. Give a brief summary of the chapter you just read.
16. Was summarizing the chapter difficult? Yes or No? Why?
17. Was your summary accurate? Look back at the passage to determine your accuracy.
18. On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = very inaccurate to 10 = very accurate) how would you rate your summary?
I make the Reader’s Guide a required assignment for all chapters that are covered in a course. The Guide requires little to no instruction and can be easily implemented into any college course. Students seem to like the format and find that it is less anxiety provoking than quizzes used to increase reading compliance. Many students comment that the Guide helps them to better understand their reading material. For me, grading the Guide is easy and requires little time and effort. It makes reading the textbook mandatory and also holds students accountable for reading in order to receive a good grade in the course.
For a PDF of the Reading Guide, go here >>
Tiffany F. Culver, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of Psychology at Sul Ross State University, Rio Grande College.