Designing Effective Reading Assignments

Making Reading/Writing Connections

Helping Students Read Difficult Texts

Use writing to improve reading. Asking students to write about texts encourages close reading, rereading, and active reading of difficult texts.

Reading scenario: You ask students to post an abstract and response to two articles on a WebCT discussion board. Then you have students read and respond to each other’s abstracts.

Assign reading as a process. Ask students to skim longer readings, reread texts, or discuss readings in small groups. Break up longer readings into shorter segments, and scaffold the most difficult readings.

Reading scenario:
You ask students to skim two articles and make a reading log entry noting initial reactions and questions. For the next class they reread the article and talk about ways that their second reading differed from their first reading.

Discuss reading myths. Students have many misconceptions about reading (good readers understand everything the first time, good readers are fast readers, reading is just memorizing information).

Reading scenario:
You ask students to come up with a list of beliefs they have about reading, and then in class you discuss their beliefs and apply what they’ve said about reading to the two articles you’ve assigned.

Teach disciplinary reading. Sometimes students struggle with readings because they’re unfamiliar with the genres of specific disciplines (executive summaries, scientific reports, sonnets, etc.). Discuss the expectations and patterns of the genres of the readings you assign, and how readers in your discipline approach texts.
Reading scenario: Youbring in example texts from your field (academic journals, books, workplace writing, etc.) and ask students to discuss the organization, style, and audience of the texts, along with strategies for reading the texts. 
Encourage collaborative reading. Ask students to discuss reading in small groups, either in class or on a WebCT discussion board, to emphasize that reading is a “socially constructed” activity.

Reading scenario
: You create a thread on the WebCT discussion board and ask each student to post one question they had about the two articles, and three responses to other students’ questions.

Making Reading Relevant

Use reading logs, journals, microthemes, etc. to connect reading to classroom discussion and activities.

Reading scenario:
You have students share their reading logs responding to two articles in small groups and then choose one to read to the class.

Ask students to “read” a variety of kinds of media, such as films, ads, music, paintings, websites, etc.

Reading scenario: You show a video on the topic discussed by two articles and ask students to compare the video to the articles in their reading journals.

Integrate texts from students’ self-sponsored reading.

Reading scenario:
You announce the topic of the two articles you will assign a few weeks ahead of time and ask students to bring you something related to this topic from their own reading (a website, a newspaper article, a magazine article, etc.).

Allow students to choose some readings, or choose from a range of options.

Reading scenario: Rather than assigning two articles, you ask students to find two articles on the specific topic you want to discuss in class and present their findings to the class.
Use in-class activities such as role-playing, panels, debates, small group discussions of readings, etc.

Reading scenario: In class you hold a “talk show” with two students taking on the role of the authors of the article and the rest of the students acting as the “studio audience” whose job it is to come up with questions for the authors and debate their ideas.