Discovering New Reading Skills


During the next few weeks, I want you to try out some new strategies for reading. Remember, in class we discussed the idea of sharpening the tools in your academic toolbox to improve your abilities rather than take them for granted or accept them as they are—this is your chance to do that for one set of tools, your reading skills.

Step 1: Making a Plan

You have several assigned readings during the first week or two of the semester that elaborate on reading strategies:

These readings discuss things you can do before, during, and after reading to improve your practice. As you read, take note of things that you’d like to try out for yourself. In addition to what you find in the reading, we'll be discussing some strategies in class, and you're free to scour the internet and elsewhere for advice.

By about Wednesday, May 1, you need to settle on 2 or 3 strategies each for before, during, and after reading that you'd like to try out over the next few weeks. Remember, this is for you, so don’t just choose the easiest things or the ones you already do—try to stretch yourself and do something new. You never know: one of these strategies might change your life and save you hours and hours of time in the long run.

Step 2: Putting the Plan into Action

Once you’ve decided what strategies to try, try them out. I’m not saying you have to use each one all the time, but I am saying that you should use each one at least once. By now, you should have some idea what reading will be required of you for your various classes (and for fun), so why not match up strategies to the reading you think will most benefit from them. Maybe your science textbook is begging to be mapped out before it’s read, or maybe Led Zeppelin is just the background music you need to appreciate Harry Potter—you won’t know unless you try.

Keep some notes as you go about what works and what doesn’t. Pay attention to how long things take and how well you seem to know what you read after using certain methods. Remember, these things are on trial, so if you just do them and forget about it, then there wasn’t much point, was there?

Step 3: Evaluating the Plan

Once you’ve had a chance to practice each method you’ve chosen for about a week, write a short reflection paper (around 750 words, give or take) outlining what you discovered. Tell me what you did and how it worked and what you think about it all. Be detailed and specific, and remember this: The act of writing or speaking the ideas that are bouncing around your head is essential to finding out what you really think. Often in writing or speaking an idea we discover that what we thought we thought is not what we actually thought at all. You might discover in writing about it that a reading strategy you thought you hated turns out to be quite useful.

Turn It In

This assignment should be uploaded to your Submitted folder on Dropbox by classtime on Wednesday, May 15. Because it's such an extensive assignment, it will count for 2 everyday grades. Please follow the file-naming and format guidelines.