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Version 3f

Home > Workshops > Textbook Reading Strategies: Program Summary

Study Skills: How to Read a Textbook

Program Summary

As part of a unit on the 1960s, the teacher divides his American History class into groups of three. Each group chooses a specific topic to research and present to the rest of the class.

Doug, Neal and Jill decide to research the civil rights movement. Doug and Neal have no difficulty with their parts of the assignment, which include reading a biography and interviewing Doug’s aunt, who took part in the famous rally in Washington in 1963. But Jill is terrified of her part, which is to read and report on a textbook chapter dealing with this topic.

Jill confides her fears to her friend Sonia, who offers to help her. Sonia introduces Jill to the system of reading comprehension called, from the initials of its five steps, SQ3R.

The first step, Sonia Explains, is Survey. In tackling the textbook chapter on the civil rights movement, for example, Jill shouldn’t simply plunge in at the first paragraph. Instead, she should first survey the chapter as a whole. She should look over the chapter title and the title of its subheadings. She should also examine the chapter summary, if there is one, and any picture captions, graphs, charts, and documentary material the chapter might contain. Thus, she will have a good idea of the overall content and structure of the chapter even before she reads it.

The second step, Sonia tells Jill, is Question. That is, as Jill starts to read each section of the text, she should ask herself one or more questions that she expects the section to answer. For example, for a section headed, “Voting Rights Act of 1965,” an obvious question is, “What was the Voting Rights Act of 1965 about?” And for a section headed, “Desegregation Comes Slowly,” a question might be, “How slow was desegregation?” Asking such questions helps the reader focus attention on the content of the material being read.

The third step, the first of the three R’s, is Read. Jill reads the textbook section on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and finds that her comprehension of it is greatly enhanced by her initial survey of the chapter and by the questions she asked herself as she began. As a result of her preliminary work, the section really makes sense for her.

The fourth step is Recite. Sonia has Jill recite a summary of the section she has just read. Jill finds that this helps her absorb and remember its content. Even better than reciting aloud, Sonia tells her, is to write the summary down.

The fifth step and the final R is Review. Once she has written down summaries of all the sections of the chapter, Jill should review them, first as she finishes reading and then about a week later, or before and exam on the material. This will eliminate the need for last minute cramming.

The class presentation goes well. Doug and Neal present the results of their interview and other research, and Jill, well prepared and confident, summarizes the main events and issues of the civil rights struggle from the sit-ins of 1960 through the progress toward desegregation in the last half of the decade.



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