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Post Reading Assignments For College

July 25th

Teaching reading does not end with the story. Here are some fun reading activities for building comprehension and improving retention. Having fun activities after the reading assignment is also a great way to reward reluctant readers. Add these 20 activities to reading classes to keep the fun going long after the book is finished.

Activities after Reading: Comprehension

There’s no point teaching reading if the students don’t understand what they have just read. These comprehension activities are great for reinforcing reading sessions and getting students to better engage in future readings.

1. Ordering – Students put paragraphs, pictures, list of events, etc., in the right order.

2. Matching – Students match pictures and sentences.

3. True or False Quizzes – Use a simple quiz to test for comprehension. This can be written or spoken in quiz show-style games.

4. Students’ own quiz – Students form 3 or more teams and come up with their own questions to ask other class teams. Teams have to ‘buzz in’ to answer.

5. Students finish sentences – Students get half of a sentence from the reading then complete it.

6. Match characters to their statements – Give students examples of characters’ dialogue and match the source. Again, this can be written or spoken, which can be made into a game.

7. Unscramble and write sentences – The teacher takes a sentence and places the words out of order. The students then re-order the words into correct sentences. An advanced version of this activity leaves out simple words like articles and prepositions.

8. Students correct sentences detailing events – Students correct a sentence from the story. Or students use their imaginations to change the story to their liking.

9. Questions from pictures – Students answer simple questions from pictures of events in the story.

10. Basic gap-fill – Gap-fill a summary of the story. Blank out every nth word, important vocabulary, character name, etc., and let the students complete the passage.

11. Change the story gap-fill – Students gap-fill a summary of the story with key words blanked out. As part of the activity, students get to change characters or events to change the storyline to their liking.

12. Sentence matching – Each student gets a sentence’s ending or beginning on a scrap of paper. Students mingle and say their ending or beginning until they find a match. When they find a match, students return to their seat to write the sentence. Extension:  This activity would work best with key events. Once all the students match their sentences, the whole class uses them to write the story. Students listen to all the sentences and re-write the whole passage in the correct order.

13. Sentence endings and beginnings – Write some endings and beginnings on a worksheet. The matching endings and beginnings can go up around the classroom. Students write the full sentences on the worksheet. They cannot take the endings and beginnings off the wall, they must read and remember.

14. Was it in the story? – Give the students some sentences. Half are in the text, half are not. Students guess (they should know!) which were in the text.

15. True or false quiz – Give the students some statements about the text. Students decide which are true or false.

Activities after Reading: Character Analysis

Some students are more dramatic and don’t always enjoy the passive reading experience. Luckily, teaching reading to more imaginative students is easy with these character analysis activities.

16. Characters in different situations – Create a situation different from the story in the book. how would the characters behave in different environments? The Tin Man going shopping

17. Student-student journalistinterviews – A ‘newspaper reporter’ interviews a character (e.g. Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz, Betty from Betty’s Secret, etc.).

18. Horoscopes – At an appropriate stage in the plot development, students write horoscopes for the characters predicting their future. At a later stage, these can be used to compare against the real events of the book. Did the horoscope prediction come true?

19. Map relationships – Map out the relationship between characters.

20. Character interviews – Students role-play an interview with one of the characters. Assign students the roles of the characters. The rest of the class prepare questions they would like to ask them. The students playing  the characters must put themselves in the characters’ shoes to give suitable answers. Teachers, make sure the students have enough support to perform their roles. You could imagine that the interviews are taking place in a police station, on a TV chat show, or wherever seems appropriate. With a little imagination, it can be a lot of fun!

With these 20 activities at the teacher’s disposal, teaching reading no longer ends with the book. Students can use their imaginations (and other skills) to more fully engage with reading materials. Best of all, students can infuse a little bit of fun into reading comprehension and character analysis.

Not ready for post-reading activities? Check out these pre-reading activities. Or look at some of our activities to make reading more exciting.

A version of this article originally appeared in Shane English School’s Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL) program, which is part of new teachers’ orientation.

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When given a reading assignment, some students feel they have met their obligation if they have forced their eyes to ‘touch’ (in appropriate sequence) each word on the pages assigned. How can we entice students to read the material we assign, and how do we help them develop strategies for deep comprehension and retention of the material? Are there subtle ways we can prod them to read and help them develop literary skills—without spending our own precious time explicitly teaching ‘reading?’ (p. 125-126)

The problem originates in high school or sometimes even before that, when students are encouraged to read for factual information that can then be regurgitated. They develop “surface learning” strategies that do not lend themselves to college-level reading, which requires engagement and analysis.

Generally, these skills are not explicitly taught at any level of education. Sophisticated learners (like faculty) discover them through a trial-and-error process, but most students in college courses today are not developing these reading comprehension skills. The article attributes the problem to a confluence of factors, including the anti-intellectualism that pervades our culture.

The authors are especially critical of quizzes over assigned readings. “They encourage surface learning based on episodic memory—short-term memorization for a day or two—rather than deep learning that is transformative of one’s perspective and involves long-term comprehension.” (p. 127)

If quizzes aren’t the answer, then how do instructors “make reading experiences meaningful so that students will want to learn via the written word and will develop an appreciation for the various strategies good readers utilize”? (p. 127)

The authors have developed an assignment strategy that certainly appears to move students in the right direction. Students complete reading responses for each reading assignment. Actually, there are 29 dates when reading responses are due; students are required to submit 25 of them so that if they have an emergency or a lot of work due in other classes, they can opt not to complete a reading response. Reading responses may take one of five forms and students are encouraged to try a variety of these options.

  • Connecting to the text—This involves underlining key ideas and making marks and comments in the margins. Students then go back through the reading and write five “big” questions on key concepts in the chapter. They answer two of those questions or write a commentary on why they think these are the core issues in the reading.
  • Summarizing the readings and visualizing the key ideas—Students make a visual or graphic organizer for content in the reading. (There are several examples in the article’s appendices.) They can also make a chart or several lists that organize and categorize ideas.
  • Reading response journal—Here each portion of the reading assignment is responded to with a question or comment.
  • Studying as a group—Two or three students can convene as a study group. They discuss the readings, focusing on key concepts. Ideas are recorded and then written up.
  • Create a song or a rap—Students create a song or rap about the assignment, which they then record and submit.

The instructors use a simple grading scheme for the assignment. Minimal efforts garner three points, solid summaries and connections are worth four points, and extraordinary responses merit five points. In the beginning, they provide students with feedback designed to help them improve. Subsequently, students get the score only.

Seventy-eight percent of the students reported that they read 75 percent or more of the assignments. Students also saw a definite connection between having done the readings and being able to participate at a higher level in class. Sixty-eight percent indicated that by doing the responses they did learn something about themselves as readers.

The authors note in their conclusion that if faculty want students to read deeply, they must work to develop assignments that encourage students to make sense of what they read. Because students use different methods to gain understanding, it makes sense to give them different options.

REFERENCE: Roberts, J. C., and Roberts, K. A. (2008). Deep reading, cost/benefit, and the construction of meaning: Enhancing reading comprehension and deep learning in sociology courses. Teaching Sociology 36, 125-140.

Excerpted from Still More on Developing Reading Skills, The Teaching Professor, Aug.-Sept. 2008.

Posted in Effective Teaching Strategies
Tagged with assignment strategies, deep learning, reading skills, retention