I. AVOIDING THE PROBLEM
The best way to combat
student apathy is to design a course which consistently and from the start encourages
Develop a policy that encourages participation
- Learn students' names
and use them.
- Ask students to sign
a contract making them responsible for reading.
- Make doing the reading
a considerable part of the students' participation grade.
- Visibly reward students
who consistently do the reading.
Prepare students in advance
- Remind students of the
- Give the students ample
time to complete the assignments.
- Give students questions
to consider as they read.
- Discuss difficult terms
and vocabulary in advance.
- Highlight areas of particular
consequence for exams and papers.
Don't summarize readings for students.
- Ask the students to
summarize parts of the reading.
- Have the students summarize
the reading in small groups.
II. A RANGE OF ASSIGNMENTS
THAT ENCOURAGE READING
Activities which need to be instituted from the beginning of the quarter:
- Sign up small groups
to present and introduce the reading in each meeting.
- Ask students to come
to class with study questions about the reading.
- Give regular quizzes
to test for reading knowledge.
- Ask students to bring
in answers to pre-prepared questions or short paper topics.
- Put a passage on an
overhead projector transparency and work with it as a class.
- Bring in a selection
of passages and have students read and present them to the class in groups
Activities for individual lesson plans:
- Ask students to write
for 5-10 minutes on the reading at the start of class.
- Go around the room asking
each student to name one important point, new discovery, or question s/he
has about the reading.
- Ask students to help
you list the three most important points from the reading on the board.
If all else fails and the
students still arrive at class unprepared, these are a range of strategies for
salvaging the lesson for that day.
1. Begin the class
with general questions students can answer even if they haven't read. As
the class continues, draw in the reading assignment. Students who have done
the reading will see the connections, and students who haven't done the assignment
will hear a broad introduction to the material.
2. Read a passage or
passages together as a class. Pose the questions that you would have asked
in a normal lesson plan. Have the students divide into groups and answer them.
3. Put questions about
the reading on the board. The students who have done the reading will be
able to quickly write down their answers and work on fresh material. Non-readers
will have to use their texts to find the answers.
4. Review concepts
from lecture during discussion. You may want to assign a brief paper answering
one or two questions to ensure that the students do the reading before the next
5. Dismiss the students
who have not finished their reading with a short paper assignment or an
admonishment to study for a quiz at the next class meeting. Continue the class
with those who have done the reading.
One way to ecourage studens
to do the reading is to provide them with some guidance. Some students will
read more efficiently with suggestions from their instructors. These are some
suggestions that could be developed as a handout or a group discussion.
1. Always read with
a pencil in your hand. Copy unfamiliar vocabulary and ideas in the margin.
2. Ask yourself questions
as you read. To avoid "fading out" as you read difficult material,
ask yourself to restate the main point of each paragraph.
3. Use the highlighter
sparingly . Never highlight examples. Instead, read the paragraph first,
then go back and highlight only the important main points, dates, definitions,
4. In very difficult classes,
try keeping reading notes . Write down the top 3-5 main points of the
reading. Make up mock exam questions or paper topics. Keep a list of questions
for the professor or the TA.
5. Try to make connections
between the reading material and your other classes. It may be easier to
remember and respond to a text if you can relate it to your own major or a favorite
6. Use visual aides
to help yourself remember details. A timeline, a graph, a diagram, or a
family tree drawn in the margin or in your reading notes will help you remember
material at test time.
7. As you read, underline
quotations that you may want to use later in a paper. This will save time
when it comes time to develop a topic or support your thesis with examples from
8. Have a no television
policy when you do your reading. Even if you are not watching the screen,
the reading will take at least twice as long.
9. Take careful notes
in lecture and/or discussion section. Each time the instructor refers to
the reading material, you have a chance to review for the exam.
10. Ask questions about
the reading . Be sure to clarify any information that is unclear to you.
Also ask the instructor to review what he/she considers to be the most important
elements in the reading.
PARTS I-III: In consultation
with: "How to Encourage Your Students To Do The Reading" (a handout
from the Office of TA Development at UCSB) and "The Teaching Professor"
(Dec. 1989): 3-4.
PART IV: Text by Nancy Plooster,
Victor Krulikowski, Julie Rabor, and Steven Pfeffer. TA Development Program,
Instructional Development; University of California, Santa Barbara, 1997.
Reference: "When They
Don't Do the Reading" In M. Weimer (ed.) The Teaching Professor.
December, 1989. pp. 3-4.