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Activity: Independent reading with purpose (2)

THEME: Reading Skills

Activity: Independent reading with purpose (2)

This is an adaptation of the Reading Skills activity that I wrote about before Easter. It provides a slightly different focus to the previous activity BUT works well if students are to be able to make useful notes from text.

As before, the main aims are to really get them thinking about what they are reading and to eliminate the indiscriminate use of the highlighter pen but it is also an activity which combines teaching new content with the use of an essential skill. The more difficult the topic the better this activity works.

The activity…………..

When I do this for the first time I always use an article which they can keep (rather than a text book).

Having given the students the text to read there are three (possibly four) parts to this activity………..

Part 1

  • Read the text – in silence- looking for “QUESTIONS”. They should put a “Q” in the margin by anything that they want to ask about. It is essential that they really think about what they are reading. Emphasise that questions are GOOD – especially if they are “development” questions (see previous article for ideas about questions).

  • Go through these questions- either getting them to answer for themselves, in a group, or with your help (this could be a separate activity in itself if you want).

Part 2

  • Students must now read the text again-in silence. This time they must try to SUMMARISE – in one phrase or sentence – the main point being made by each paragraph. This summary should be written in the margin next to the paragraph. They will find this extremely hard to start with. Make them TRY on their own first time through – builds resilience. They will often surprise themselves with success! Sometimes the paragraph states its purpose very clearly in the first or last sentence – other times they will need to create a completely new sentence. They may NOT have more than one summary statement per paragraph. It must NOT be a long sentence (i.e. should not fill the margin!)

  • Go through these summaries with them. I do my summary phrases whilst they are doing theirs – this means that everything is fresh in my mind AND gives me an idea about how long they will need to do it. I then match what they have done with what I have done. We discuss the alternatives they will have come up with- deciding why some are better than others.

Part 3

(They will like this bit!)

  • Allow them to use a highlighter pen to highlight ONE aspect of the article. Usually I get them to highlight KEY TERMS and interesting/useful phrases that they could use in essays.

  • Go through this with them.

Part 4 (optional)

  • Allow them to use ANOTHER COLOUR highlighter to identify another aspect of the article eg – I often get them to highlight EVIDENCE/EXAMPLES. This could be names, places, facts, figures, anything that you want it to be.

Make sure that they are not tempted to highlight anything else.

Make sure that they have a key for their highlighting.

Make sure that they have not highlighted too much – they need to be able to learn/remember these highlighted items.

Well – that’s it! This activity is infinitely flexible and lends itself to group work as well as independent work. I would say that I think it is important to work through this exercise at least ONCE independently. Only that way will they really understand what they are doing. I have also found it essential to do this on a fairly regular basis in order to prevent them reverting to their preferred (easier but useless) habit of highlighting everything they read!

I often apply the whole activity (all three or four parts) to the first section of an article – then get them to do the rest on their own or in groups. I ALWAYS go through it with them until they are really familiar with the process.

Make sure that they realise that IF they are making notes from text they should follow this procedure every time. The “Question” stage must NOT be omitted. The process of identifying and solving problems will really help their understanding of the article. Too often they skim read and gloss over anything they don’t really understand. They might not be able to mark the text book but their written notes should consist of: the paragraph summaries; the key terms; the evidence.

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