What did you find challenging about last night’s reading? What did you do when you struggled with the reading? What helped make this reading easier? What new strategies did you try with this reading that you haven’t used before?
These types of questions ask students to engage in metacognition–thinking about thinking. And it’s something I’ve been asking them to do a lot more of this semester. Another of the many valuable ideas I learned in our Reading Apprenticeship workshop this past May was the idea of having students think very explicitly about their own thinking as they read. So often, students just plow through their reading for a course, rarely stopping to consider what they are doing or how they are doing it. When they get stuck, they assume they’re stupid or the reading is stupid and either they soldier on confused or they throw the book down in frustration and quit. Rarely do they slow down and say, “Hmmm. This is confusing. I’d better apply some strategies so that I can figure this out.”
This semester, several of us in Communications have tried to focus much more on getting our students to be more aware of what they are doing when they are reading. The biggest way to get them thinking about this is to just ask them to do it–either by writing or talking about the questions above. It’s bumpy at first; they don’t know what to say, but as the semester has gone on, I have seen more awareness of their own control over their reading. They have learned to predict, to re-read, to slow down, to ask questions, to talk to the text and annotate, and to deal with confusion by marking a passage to ask about later. They see that when they read, they are not at the mercy of the fickle reading gods, but, in fact, with a little self-awareness and knowledge of strategies, they can take control of their reading and read with much greater success.