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.
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 Dougs 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.
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.
first step, Sonia Explains, is Survey. In tackling the
textbook chapter on the civil rights movement, for example, Jill
shouldnt 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.
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.
third step, the first of the three Rs, 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.
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.
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.
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.