Can Students Exit Your Course as Better Readers?

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 54 seconds

I will be honest with you: I know teachers who encounter resistance from their students towards reading have an uphill battle, but could imho take it upon themselves to do something *different* about it, because if no one does anything about it but complain, how are students going to improve? There could be many reasons this is happening, and I think these solutions could work for any number of them. If they don’t address your needs or you have better strategies, please share in the comments. These are mostly things that have worked for me, but I do have lots of freedom with my course material and activities.

*Can the readings be more accessible? If there is a way to relay the same information at a level accessible for our students, I don’t see why we shouldn’t do that. E.g. if a writer has an article that summarizes the key points in their book, or if the writer has a trade journal publication or video or podcast that expresses the same material in an accessible way, why not make that an option as a starting point for students if it is a concept that is new to them? We can build up to more difficult material if necessary, but if students are struggling to read them, assigning more will not help. Can we build up towards more complex readings? Our students are not as fast or capable at reading as we are. Yet.

*Can we teach students reading strategies? Can we model to students how to read critically, how to skim, etc.? Can we model for them some metacognitive strategies and make transparent to them our own ways of reading? Can we help them overcome the brain block of finding new jargon and deciding when to pause and let it distract them and when not to?

*Can we talk to students? I have a new habit of doing a two minute paper asking “what was the most important thing you learned?”, “what remains unclear?” and also asking what they enjoyed most?”. I do this every week or so, sometimes about classes, sometimes about readings, and it helps me plan future activities and sessions.

*Can the readings be more enjoyable? Is there any way in your course to choose readings that students might enjoy more? I know some disciplines are more dry than others, but let’s assume these students are in a discipline they enjoy, and there must be materiel related to our courses that they would find more relevant or interesting, or something we can say in class to make them curious about it. OR an approach to reading, such as collaborative annotation with colleagues or pairs reading together and presenting or leading a discussion, all of these things can make it a less lonely experience? Can we give them choices of readings? In my experience, giving choice always helps. If the reading itself cannot be made more enjoyable, the reading task could be made more enjoyable with the guidelines/prompt we give them – e.g. can there be a scavenger hunt to find things in the reading, or an interesting question to connect the reading to something else that is interesting?

What else has worked for you? [please don’t say “reading quiz” because that is a “get them to read” rather than “teach them to be good readers” strategy 🙂 If the reading is way above their level, they won’t do better just because it’s a quiz ]

Featured image from Pixabay.

2 thoughts on “Can Students Exit Your Course as Better Readers?

  1. paulineridley says:

    Thanks Maha – agree completely! Some more tactics that can help: using textmapping and/or sketchnoting in groups to summarise and engage with readings; using a Padlet board or other online tool for students to share interesting readings they find on each topic with a brief comment about why they like it…

    1. Maha Bali says:

      I love both these suggestions!

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