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After Reading: Tasks and Strategies

Stage Three

"What did I get out of this?" The task of the after-reading stage is to integrate or synthesize the read material into one's knowledge base of the topic. Students need to make the material their own. This can be achieved through a variety of means employing writing, class discussion, visual representations, and physical demonstration.

Strategies for the After-Reading Stage

The most obvious and widely used strategy for the after-reading stage is to answer questions in writing--either comprehension questions at the end of a chapter or questions handed out by the teacher. Answering such questions is good because they directly relate to the concepts in the reading and require students to put their understanding into words.

Because the wording or structure of some textbook questions is very complex, it may be advisable to reword the question at a more user-friendly level that still taps into the students' comprehension of the concepts. Several of the other SEA Site modules discuss the relative complexities of English grammatical structures and offer guidelines for avoiding or simplifying more complex structures for specific purposes.

Another after-reading strategy involves the use of learning logs. Learning logs are similar to journals that encourage students to put into words what they learned from the reading and to reflect upon their own learning experiences and learning needs. A teacher can prepare a learning log handout that includes the following components:

Questions about the content of the reading for students to answer in their own words

Questions about the difficulty level of the reading material and a statement about the time and effort expended by the student in doing the work

A comparison of the actual content of the reading with what the student had predicted in the before-reading stage

Items related to new vocabulary or terms learned in the reading

Goal-setting for future learning needs

For further details on learning logs, see the "Other Activities" section of the SEA Site module, Reading and Writing in Content Areas.

Summary writing is another way for students to put concepts from the reading into their own words. A good summary …

Should reflect the major/key points of a reading

Should be a "capsule" of the reading in condensed form

Provides the instructor with a good mirror of the student's comprehension of the reading

Finally, K-W-L Charts, which were discussed in the section, "Before Reading: Tasks and Strategies," are another way for students to record what they learned from a reading. The "L" question is relevant to the after-reading stage:

K = What do I know already about this topic?

W = What do I want to know?

L = What did I learn from this reading?

Classroom Activities

There a variety of classroom activities that can be employed in the after-reading stage to help students in their comprehension of read materials. These include (a) concept maps, (b) role-play, (c) quiz making, and (d) research fairs.

Concept maps are visual representations of read material and allow for a variety of expressions, depending on the nature of the material. For many students, visual representations are valuable learning and study tools. It is hard to specify "directions" for the myriad types of webs, charts, pie diagrams, and matrices that can represent related ideas. Vacca and Vacca's (1996) text, Content Area Reading, offers a multitude of examples. See the SEA Site module, Reading and Writing in Content Areas, for details on the use of "graphic organizers" and other types of concept maps.

Role-play activities allow students to act out concepts. For example, in a computer technology class, after students read about the functions of the various computer components, the teacher could select students to act out the roles of the CPU, the monitor, the modem, and the printer.

Quiz making is another student activity that can facilitate comprehension in the after-reading stage. Quiz making encourages students to think like the course instructor and, at the same time, to consider what concepts in the reading are key: "If you were the teacher and you wanted to test your students on this chapter, what would you ask?" This activity can be done as an individual assignment or in collaborative groups or pairs. Students can be encouraged to create a variety of question types.

At the end of a chapter or unit, students may want to learn more about the topic or to go more in depth in a particular area. When a course includes a research project component or the opportunity for extra credit, students can gather more information about an area of their interest. Having a research fair, in which students present to the class, can be a very motivating experience. Teachers can encourage students to make Power Point presentations, to use other visual displays, or to create hands-on experiential activities.


Giving students the opportunity to express their understanding of the reading, either in writing, discussion, graphic representation, or role play, allows them to learn from each other and to integrate the content of reading material into their knowledge base.