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Reading process?

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Dd16 is taking an online intro to college composition course at the community college. Her teacher posted some "getting to know you" questions for all the students, one of which asked the students to describe their reading process. Dd was flummoxed: she told me she just reads, lol. She has no clue what the teacher wanted. I suggested taking notes for a research paper as she went along, or noting new vocabulary, maybe? Only neither of those options would necessarily apply to her reading.

Of course I suggested she ask, but she didn't. She said she told the teacher she doesn't have a reading process. 

I'm still curious, and not likely to ever get an answer from the teacher, so: how would you interpret that question?

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My *guess* is that the question is meant to help students think about how to study for different subjects. Reading for pleasure is very different from reading a work of literature with the goal of being able to discuss it in depth -- which in turn is different from reading a textbook with the goal of absorbing facts and information.

Or, the teacher may be looking at whether most of the students already know how to do "close reading", or use reading strategies -- or if that is something that the teacher will need to cover.

"Close reading" process of 3 readings of the text:
1. determine what the text says -- read for general understanding, summarize central idea/theme, note how text is organized
2. determine how the text says it -- zoom in and think about vocabulary, sentence structure, point of view, author's purpose
3. determine what the text means -- zoom out and think about visual features of the text, author credibility, text-to-text connections

Reading strategies might include techniques such as:
- looking at headings and sub headings for a good idea of what a textbook passage is going to be about
- "chunking" the text (group into manageable amounts of paragraphs to help stay focused)
- annotation (underline/circle/highlight key words/ideas and make notes in the margin)
- outlining/notetaking of key facts, vocabulary, and information
- create a visual image to capture the essence of the text
- ask yourself text-dependent questions about the text to make sure you thoroughly understand the text

Edited by Lori D.
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Thanks, Lori. That sounds like it should have been obvious when you spell it out, but somehow it wasn't. 

Sometimes I feel like the vocabulary for all this has changed so much in the 30+ years since I took English classes. We talked about all those things, but none of those strategies were explicitly discussed.

Anyway, thanks!

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When this teacher asks how the student reads, he or she may also have in mind issues like the following — from an article on close reading:


It is perfectly normal — especially when dealing with a difficult text — to mentally "go out to lunch" from time to time, to stare at the page empty-headed: I wonder what's for dinner… — The question is whether your student is onto him- or herself, aware of his or her own mental comings and goings, monitoring them, and when needed, steering back to the topic at hand.

Monitoring your own experience as you read is vital. Even the going-out-to-lunch experience provides vital clues about your relationship with what you're reading: we don't space out for no reason; there's always a reason — even if it's just mental fatigue, time for a break. If we can pinpoint the spot at which our attention drifted, we can often identify the cause right in the text — e.g., the author made a historical reference unfamiliar to us; or the thought became really abstract, we had no mental picture of what was being referred to; or the author went off on a tangent or abruptly introduced a new train of thought and, mentally stuck in the previous point, we didn't follow.

The point is, the mindful student:

  • is aware of such reading mishaps and takes charge of his or her own learning experience;
  • discovers the need to develop mental stamina, staying power, and embarks on a steady regimen of close reading with challenging material.


Hope that's helpful, Innisfree.

—Roy Speed

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