Students often finish a reading, close the book, and don't think about it again until they arrive in class. The following activities can be used after a reading to help students analyze concepts for a deeper understanding of ideas and organize information for later retrieval:
Encourage students to use graphic organizers (charts or concept "maps") to help them visualize concepts and key relationships between ideas from their readings. These should be started right after students have completed a reading, whereas revisions and additions can be done after class discussions.
It's a good idea to show students several examples of graphic organizers and explain which ones work well with different text patterns. Many reading skills texts have examples of various graphic organizers with explanations of how they might best be used. Here is an example of one type of graphic organizer for comparing two concepts:
After students read a chapter or section of a chapter in the course textbook, ask them to develop questions for a quiz. (This can also be done with other reading materials.) This activity forces them to analyze the information in the chapter and decide on the most important concepts to remember.
Formulating questions can also help them to organize the concepts into logical chunks of information for easier retrieval. Working in groups on this activity is helpful for further discussion of concepts.
Students can then present their questions to the class and see who can answer them correctly. The students trying to answer the questions may offer suggestions on how to write a question more clearly so that it can be easily understood. Teachers might also offer suggestions for revision of questions. Other SEA Site modules, for example, "WH-Questions" and "Passive Voice" can be useful for teachers in providing guidance in using structures that will be more easily understood by students.
Ask students to write a summary of the main points of a text or passage. Figuring out what to include in a summary is often a difficult task for students, so passing out a handout with the criteria for a good summary can serve as a reminder to students.
Modeling the process of good summary writing during class is also helpful. For example, when students have finished a portion of text, begin a discussion of the most important points from the text. Write all the points that students suggest on the board. Discuss which ideas should be included in the summary. In addition, show how ideas can be paraphrased and written in the student's own words.
Remember to emphasize that minor details,specific examples, and opinions should not be included in a summary of a text.
Writing outlines is also a good way to organize and remember concepts. The emphasis here should be on how students see the relationships between ideas being presented. Don't worry if students don't use the correct Roman numerals or other markers. What is important is that they are able to distinguish the main ideas from the supporting details and organize the information in a logical format.
To evaluate how much of a text students understood, and to see how confident students are when answering questions about a text, you can try the following quiz method I saw used by a colleague, Vicki Robinson, in a physics class at NTID. This method also encourages valuable small group discussion of concepts. Here's how it works:
Students read an assigned number of pages for homework. (The number of pages assigned usually depends on the level of difficulty of the text.) They are told that they will be quizzed on the information the next day.
When the students arrive for class the following day, they are each given a quiz and asked to complete it individually. The quiz involves a series of TRUE/FALSE (T/F) questions where the students are required to write three answers for each question.
Here's an example of a quiz question:
Newton's third law of motion is: For every force (action), there is an equal and opposite force (reaction).
If students feel strongly that this statement is true, they would write T, T, T as their three answers to the question. If they are fairly confident that this statement is true, but not totally sure, they could write T, T, F. If they feel strongly that this is an incorrect statement, they could answer F, F, F, and so on. Each question is worth three points, so it is possible to receive partial credit.
After students answer all the questions, their papers are collected by the teacher. Then the students are divided into groups and given the same quiz. Students discuss the questions, give their opinions, and try to support their answers with information they remember from the text. They write their own TRUE and FALSE answers to the questions again based on the discussion with their group.
The teacher collects the papers and has the option of keeping both scores for each student, combining the scores for both quizzes and recording the average, or keeping the higher of the two scores.