Writing to Read

Time required: Short (15 minutes)

Grading: Not required

Disciplines: Appropriate for all

Why: Good readers bring questions to the text before and as they read; for them, reading is a process of uncovering answers. Students don’t always know how to do this. Making students aware of key concepts BEFORE they read will enhance comprehension.

How: Give students a key word or term from the reading assigned for the NEXT class, and ask them to define it. This works best if the term is technical, difficult, and/or unfamiliar.

  • Put the word or term on the screen, and give students 2-3 minutes to write a definition. Assure them that they will not be evaluated on the correctness of their definition.
  • Put the students in breakout rooms and have them share their definitions & pick the best one. (5 min.)
  • Bring the groups back and have a representative from each group share the best definition from the group.
  • Give students the correct definition.

NOTE: If the term is really new and unfamiliar, it’s fun to have students come up with purposefully wrong definitions, and share the wackiest, weirdest ones.

Whether you ask for a real definition or a fake definition, the end result is the same: students will have heard the term and thought about it before they read, and before you lecture. This will automatically make them read more attentively (because they’ll have encountered the term and thought about it before), and it will increase their chances of remembering the term (because they have more context with which to associate it).