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The activities here are designed to help students understand how to read more effectively for academic purposes and to develop their own academic reading practices. More detailed advice and guidance on supporting students’ reading practices is available in the LLI’s Transitions Toolkit (www.le.ac.uk/transitions-toolkit).
Initially, set students shorter reading tasks in order to help them get into the habit of reading and discussing their responses to reading. Examples of smaller reading tasks might include:
• Allocating smaller sections of a chapter or article for students to summarise and report back on
• Asking students to read whole a chapter, article etc. but to report back briefly on just one aspect
• Setting shorter reading/summary tasks in seminars and lectures in order to model good practice and help students develop more active and critical reading practices.
In addition to setting reading (e.g. for a seminar to follow a lecture) it’s a good idea to provide students with some more directive activities designed to help them to: a) manage the reading task; and b) develop better reading habits. One way of doing this is to set a small number of questions to accompany the reading. You might decide you want students to have a go at all the questions, or you might ask them to consider a few and pick up on more complex questions in a later seminar. Types of questions can include some or all of the following:
– Clarifying specialist language questions about the meaning of key words, phrases and concepts
– Understanding central argument questions about key claims being made/arguments advanced
– Evaluative questions, inviting more critical reflection
– Synoptic questions, inviting more of an overview of chapter, article etc. as a whole
In addition to providing some structuring questions, it’s also helpful to indicate at this stage the period of time you would expect students to spend on the activity. If the reading is for a subsequent seminar, you can also task students to devising at least one question of their own for discussion among the group. As students make progress through the module, this exercise can be expanded so that students are tasked with developing their own questions and/or questions for peers, relating to key readings.
Structured reading groups
The ‘structured reading group’ (SRG) model presented, here, has already been applied to good effect at the University of Leicester. SRGs work by allocating specific reading tasks to students. The idea, over time, is for all students to have a go at playing each role at least once. Below is a brief overview of how these roles work in practice (for a more detailed account of this approach, including student resources to support and encourage engagement, see Parrott and Cherry, 2011).
|‘…to develop at least three possible discussion questions that you can discuss in groups to help everyone understand the main points of the assigned reading… You will also be responsible for facilitating the class discussion.’|
‘…to locate a few special passages that are important in the reading assignment. These may give key information, back up the information given, or summarize the author’s key points. They might also be passages that strike your fancy for some reason, are particularly well written, or might be controversial or contradictory with other passages or other information learned in class…’
‘…to help everyone make connections to other important ideas, both to ideas from this class and also to other cultural, social, political, and economic ideas. You may make connections to other reading assignments, lectures, TV shows, movies, or other experiences…’
‘…to challenge the ideas in the article by developing a list of critical, thoughtful questions and arguments that might be raised by critics of the authors or by those with different points of view.’
‘…the only role that will be prepared during and after class. Your job is twofold. First, during the discussion, you will take notes on the discussion and will summarize its main points… Second, after the discussion you will need to write a brief summary of the group discussion.’
Parrott, H.M. and Cherry, E. (2011) Using structured reading groups to facilitate deep learning, Teaching Sociology, 39(4), 354-370.
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