For each class, students must read a wide range of materials, in both print and online formats: from their texts, to journal articles, to novels and short stories. As they read, they’ll need to read and think carefully about the concepts covered in those materials. Active reading strategies can help them make the time they devote to their reading assignments more effective.

In Essential Study Skills, Eighth Edition, author Linda Wong defines active reading as “… the process of using effective strategies to engage working memory to achieve specific reading goals” (267). To help students put the active reading process into action, Wong includes a checklist of active reading strategies. We’ve adapted these below. Encourage your students to adopt these strategies for reading… they’ll find that they get even more out of their study time.

Suggested active-learning strategies for reading course materials

  • Before you sit down to study, grab a pen or pencil. Take down notes as you read. If you’re working with printed materials, underline essential facts and ideas and jot down notes in the margins. (Review some additional tips for effective note taking.)
  • Write the key terms, ideas, and dates from the reading onto index cards; use these as flashcards to review at a later time.
  • Create study tools as you go! For example, you could write your own practice test questions. If you see a diagram, copy it into your own notebook. Or, to take it a step further: take an idea, process, or concept that’s covered in a section of the text, and see if you can create your own chart or diagram that illustrates the information you need to learn, know, and do.
  • Carefully consider how each paragraph of the piece is structured. This active reading strategy will help you think critically about the points and arguments presented in the reading.
  • Look closely at any photographs, illustrations, and diagrams included in the reading material. Make notes on these as well: they’re more than illustrations… they convey important information about the subject you’re studying.

Reference: Wong, Linda. 2015. Essential Study Skills, 8th ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

What additional strategies for reading would you suggest? Share them in the comments.