Reading as an active process
Active reading involves various practical steps. While we will outline these steps to help you be a practical, active reader, remember where we started: you are a diverse learner. As you read on, try out various strategies and figure out what works best for you as a learner. Some fundamental practices of active reading, like annotation, are universal but adaptable based on how you develop. For example, annotating on screen as opposed to taking notes by hand, or writing certain symbols in the margins that make sense to you. Other strategies, like mind mapping, may work better for visual learners, while “chunking,” summarizing and close reading are more effective for linguistic learners.
Pre-reading with KWL+
Active reading involves various stages of interacting with a text. In my courses, I use the heuristic of KWL+ to frame and structure an active pre-reading process that involves follow-up after reading as well – it encapsulates all stages of an active, critical reading process. Your professor may give you a graphic organizer or reading log based on KWL+, or you can adapt this heuristic on your own to help you approach new reading experiences in college.
KWL + Reading Process
|K– ||What do you know about the topic, author, genre or any other aspect of the text BEFORE starting to read? What clues does the text give you to make predictions?|
|W–||What do you want to know? What questions do you have? Where does your natural curiosity take you?|
|L–||AFTER READING, using your annotations (see below), list what you learned. What were the most fascinating or interesting take-aways for you? Why do you think you connected with these particular ideas or claims of the author or text?|
|+ –||What do you still want to know? What questions were not answered when you read, and do you think you could find them if you re-read the text? What new questions were sparked during your reading process?|
Skimming and Scanning
Skimming and Scanning are other pre-reading processes (not to be confused with the entire reading process), that help you determine where to focus your energy while reading.
SKIMMING: Within particular sections or in the Abstract, Introduction, and sometimes even the Conclusion of a text, you may want to skim a paragraph or two to get a sense of the overall language, vocabulary, and the author’s arguments. Skimming is an important pre-reading step because it gives you a sense of the text before you start going in-depth, where you practice various ways of annotating, reading like a writer, mind mapping, and close reading (all described in detail below).
SCANNING: When scanning, you want to look for particular ways that the author or publisher of a text made certain words or ideas stand out — whether they are bolded, underlined, or italicized; if there are Text Boxes that make the concept or idea stand apart from the rest of the text; and/or if there are images to add meaning to a certain concept, idea, or section of a text. Based on your pre-reading steps, you may focus on particular sections that stimulate your curiosity based on your Inquiry Question (see Chapter 4), or other goals as a reader and writer.