The idea of getting ahead in their classes might sound impossible to students. As much as they might realize that part of the reason they are struggling is because they are constantly reacting (rather than pro-acting), they often don’t feel like they have time to get ahead. Instead of listening to lectures with sense of familiarity and engagement, students end up frantically taking notes.
To help your kids learn how to be in a primed “ready state” in class, try this preview technique to get a jump-start on their next textbook chapter. The goal is to get the student to actively preview the material so that when they sit down for a lecture, they’ve already got an idea of the big picture of the chapter, making the lecture more valuable (and making notes they take more useful). The best part? This exercise only takes 30-60 minutes.
Here is how it works. The weekend before the student begins a new chapter in their class, they should open up the textbook to the first page of the chapter. The student should read the title of the chapter, then take out a sticky note and complete the following sentences:
1. “I know…”
The student should complete this sentence by saying something he or she knows about the title. This could be a simple as the definition of a word in the title, or something they learned in the last chapter that might connect to this next chapter. For example, in a US History chapter entitled, “Economic Transformation 1820-1860” some “I know”s might include:
- “I know ‘economic’ means something about money or trade.”
- “I know that a transformation means that there was a big change.”
- “I know that the slave trade was banned before this.”
Completing this sentence primes the student to look for connections between what they already know, and what they are about to learn.
2. “I predict…”
The student should complete this sentence by saying something he or she predicts will be covered in the chapter, section, or subsection. Predictions should be as specific as the student dares (no points lost for being wrong!) but should be based on evidence or the student’s gut feelings.
- “I predict that this will talk about the California Gold Rush.”
- “I predict this will have something to do with the cotton gin.”
- “I predict that this chapter will talk about cities getting bigger.”
Completing this sentence helps the student to make inferences about the material. When the student actually reads the chapter, they’ll be able to see which of their predictions were correct, and think about why the incorrect ones were incorrect.
3. “I wonder…”
The student should complete this sentence by writing something that he doesn’t know, but might learn about in this chapter or section.
- “I wonder if these economic changes had something to do with slavery.”
- “I wonder if people got richer during this time.”
- “I wonder why there was an economic transformation.”
Completing this sentence gives the student a task to focus on as they read: what is the answer to the question? Having a purpose as the student reads will help keep the student more engaged and active as they read.
Becoming a conscious and motivated reader
Like many study techniques, the key to active engagement is doing something more than just reading. Certainly, a conscious and motivated reader can be actively engaged in the material without writing, but it is very easy to slip into passivity if you are just moving your eyes down the page.
The great thing about this technique is it is not very time consuming. It’s rare that doing this kind of preview would take longer than an hour, usually more like 30 minutes. It isn’t as big an ask as “read and take notes on the chapter before the class starts in on it,” and it still helps the student set the foundation for success in the chapter.
Check out 35 Strategies For Guiding Readers Through Informational Texts by Virginia Loh and Barbara Moss for more reading tips like these. This pre-reading process was adapted from a technique found in this book!