An interesting discussion has been taking place on one of the listservs I belong to, focusing on what we can do to encourage students both to read their textbooks and to make sense of what they read. Below are a few of the suggestions.
- Try “JITTs” (Just-in-Time Teaching), an approach that involves asking deep questions or questions that you think will be hard for students to answer and ending with something like “What did you find especially puzzling or especially interesting in the reading?” Student answers are graded (to encourage participation) and turned in before class, so that the teacher knows what to focus on in class (Bill Goffe, Penn State University)
- Don’t like JITTS? Try SPUNKI, which stands for questions asking what was Surprising, Puzzling, Useful, New, Knew it already, and Interesting. Rebecca Clemente (North Central College) has students use a rubric that involves them finishing sentences like ““When the article stated … this was surprising because …“ Then they talk over their responses in groups at the beginning of class to set the focus for the discussion to follow.
- Another way to stimulate motivation for reading recommended by Jen Lara is going through an upcoming assignment, writing important quotes down on individual note cards, and having all students at the beginning of class pick a quote that is of interest to them and then discuss it with a partner.
- A variation of this was suggested by Jill Dahlman (University of Nevada, Reno ): “I am going to ask people to note on a piece of paper (no name!) where they had difficulty and a list of words that they didn't fully understand and turn these in. I'm going to start our discussion with going through those areas of difficulty, and then see if any of these areas spark a discussion. Reading academic language is difficult, and the more students can see that it's ‘not just them,’ then I think more people will become engaged.”
- A number of listserv members recommended online discussions as a good way to motivate students to read and clarify reading assignments. Charles MacArthur (University of Delaware) pointed out that “one good angle for questions is about the value or meaning of the reading for students' own lives. How would you use this? How is it related to your experience?”
- Lynda Harding (CSU Fresno) assigns students to online discussion groups and gives them some credit for posting a question and some for answering a colleague’s question or for helping to select one or two questions for the group to submit to her.
- Jon Mueller (North Central College) has students write just a couple sentences about two or three questions he poses on the reading assignment. Credit is given not for accuracy but just if the student has made a good-faith effort, so it only takes 5 -10 minutes to assign credit to a stack of papers. He added, “I was initially surprised that virtually all of my students, including the weaker and less motivated ones, complete almost all of the assignments. They are much better prepared for class.”
- Lee Torda (Bridgewater State University) has a different approach, a “top 5 document”: “One page. Single spaced. Top Five Things You Think Are Important for Other People to Get from this Reading. It's a living document in class. Students read each others'. They battle over their choices in a friendly way. They write back and forth about it so I don't really do a ton of evaluation of it. Mostly if they do it and it's not absolutely wrong and phony, they get the credit. And it's 15% of their final grade.”
- And finally Irv Peckham (Drexel) reminded everyone of the importance of giving reading assignments that students will enjoy reading, that they can feel connected to, since, as he put it, “Reading and writing should be a pleasure for students.”
Have you used any of these? Did they work? Do you have tips to add to the list?