Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Topic: College Students' Reading

10-Second Review: Students are not reading required course content, but are reading what is of importance, interest and significance to them.

Title: “Texts of Our Institutional Lives: Studying the ‘Reading Transition’ from High School to College: What Are Our Students Reading and Why?” DA Jolliffe and A. Harl. College English (July 2008), 599-617. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Quote: “If the scuttlebutt about reading is true, the Visigoths are at the door. An array of national surveys and studies suggests that neither high school nor college students spend much time preparing for class, the central activity of which we presume to be reading assigned articles, chapters and books. Similar studies argue that college students spend little to no time reading for pleasure and that adults in the United States are devoting less and less of their free time to reading fiction, poetry, and drama.

"Books lamenting the decline in the reading of great literature in our culture find an eager and ardent audience. The water-cooler conversation in English departments and indeed throughout the university seems to confirm the reports and corroborate the end-of-reading treatises and memoirs: legions of students apparently come to class ill prepared, not having done the assigned reading at all or having given it only cursory attention. Professors admit that students can actually pass exams if they come to the lectures and take (or buy) good notes, whether or not they have read the assigned material. In short, careful reading seems to have become a smaller blip on the higher educational radar screen or dropped off it altogether.”

Conclusion: “In short, we discovered students who were extremely engaged with their reading, but not with the reading that their classes required.”

Comment: In short, students are reading but not for their course assignments.

Remind the students of that simple technique: the chapter survey. Students read the title of the chapter, the subheading and the bold-face headings throughout the chapter. Now they read the first paragraph, the first sentence of each intermediate paragraph and the last paragraph. At that point, they raise questions about what they still need to read and quickly go back to the places in the text where the questions are answered—as signaled by the bold-face headings and first sentences of intermediate paragraphs.

Students will read—at any level—if they raise questions they want to answer.

The purpose of this blog is to share interesting ideas I have found in recent American professional publications dealing with the teaching of English at all levels, elementary, secondary and college.

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