Post by Glenn Whitman and an Un-Named Student
Active reading is a critical skill in my history class. My goal is to have students to be able to recall more of what they read during our discussions in the next class period. As a result, I am currently using research in Mind, Brain, and Education Science to see if it can enhance each student’s ability to make more of what they read stick! Reading is often a uni-sensory process. As a result, I make students actively read so they are engaging more of their senses. But how do teachers get students engaged in active reading of sources that the student was assigned?
Using research around intrinsic motivation, I allow students to choose their preferred method of actively reading a primary or secondary source in history class. Students can select from four options and by merely giving them choice the students feel they “own” the reading more.
This said, on an assigned reading of Abraham Lincoln’s Civil War speeches, I received one of the best emails I have ever received from a student. Here is what he wrote:
I have a question based on your specific instructions for me at the end of class on Friday. For tomorrow’s class, we are to read the documents that you handed out. At the end of class, you told me to keep in mind how long it takes me to read it and to mark the start and finish times on the lines you drew. However, if I were to read it in a timely fashion, that would mean that I would have to spend precious seconds to write down the most salient points of each page, one of the active reading options, which would mean my reading time would take longer. For every reading, you want us to actively read based on the option that we chose on that sheet you gave us a couple of weeks ago. I highlighted salient information and, as a supplement, I use a red pen so that I could easily spot those important points in the article, I underlined and starred information that I thought was salient and worth noting. After class on Friday, you said to keep in mind my timing, so I took that seriously and actively read in a way that works for me personally, which I mentioned above, and I wanted to make sure that that was ok with you; because, if you collect our articles tomorrow, I don’t want to lose points for my active reading when I did do it; I just did it in a different way that works for me, and so that I would save time in the reading time department.
One of the greatest skills we can teach students is the ability to self-advocate. It is part of our school’s Effort Grade Rubric and it was a skill certainly on display in this student’s e-mail. As the student thought meta-cognitively on his learning, he recognized his strengths and weaknesses and returned with an active reading option that he preferred. I readily accepted his new option but more importantly, while I hope this would lead to this student recalling more of what Lincoln wrote so many years ago, I was more excited about how this student was developing a strong understanding of at least one aspect of his learning.
How do you teach your students to self-advocate?