Best Practices: Integrate Basic Skills to Support Content Area Learning
To help students develop textbook reading and management skills, devote some time at the onset of the semester to survey your textbook with your class. Review the table of contents and organization of chapters. Note important features and resources; glossaries, appendices, indices. This will help you introduce course content as well. Identify chapters or sections that are most valuable to you. Help students develop content schema by previewing chapters before assigning them. Teach students to turn headings and subheadings into questions before reading. Point out vocabulary sections, end-of-chapter questions, important visuals, and summaries. Present other questions prior to reading, so that their reading process is purposeful and directed. While discussing the content, demonstrate how students can annotate sections and make marginal notes, or create charts or graphs from the content.
I love using “low stakes” writing activities in my classes. They serve both as icebreakers and springboards for discussion. Exploratory writing helps students access their prior knowledge before reading or studying a topic, and reflect upon it after. Activities can be responses to simple questions you ask your students, or you can enhance the structure with a prompt, opening sentence, format model, or close portion.
You don’t need to grade these! You may choose to collect them and respond personally. You might choose to model one or two key formatting or compositional issues you think students would benefit from. Or, the response can be read aloud, shared in pairs, small groups, or with the entire class to get everyone involved. The writing stimulates the thinking and the thinking stimulates the writing.