How to Read Textbooks with PQ RAR
Many of us remember the old stand-by: the SQ3R reading-study method. Designed to improve reading comprehension of textbooks, the SQ3R method did help the reader to read expository text differently than narrative text. However, this method sorely needs an update to connect with recent reading research regarding what techniques best improve comprehension and retention of expository-based textbooks.
Try the PQ RAR reading-study method as you read or teach your next textbook chapter.
P-First of all, preview the reading selection. Try to limit the reading selection to a manageable size. Overly long chapters, say over six pages for elementary students, eight for middle school students, twelve for high school students, and sixteen for college students should be “chunked” into manageable reading sections.
1. Preview the first and last paragraphs of the chapter and the chapter review, if one is provided.
2. Preview all subtitles and any book study helps at the beginning of the chapter.
3. Preview all graphics such as photographs, charts, maps, etc. and their captions.
Q–Secondly, make use of text-based questions to read textbooks effectively. Good questions produce good answers and significantly increase expository comprehension. Determining questions before reading provides a purpose for reading, that is-to find the answers as you read.
1. Develop questions from the subtitles and write these down on binder paper or on your computer, skipping lines between each question. Try “What,” “How,” and “Why” question-starters. Avoid the “Who” and “When” questions, as these tend to focus attention on the minor details of expository text.
2. Write down any chapter review questions not covered by your subtitle questions, skipping lines between each question.
R–Read the chapter and “talk to the text” by taking notes in the textbook margins. Use yellow stickies and paste them in the textbook margins, if you can’t write in the textbook. Write down comments, questions, predictions, and connections to other parts of the reading and your own life experiences. List examples, key details, and important terms with their definitions. Internal monitoring of the author’s train of thought and the connection to your own knowledge and experience increases comprehension as you read textbooks.
A–Answer both the subtitle questions and the book questions as you read. Write down your answers underneath your questions. Don’t be concerned if the textbook did not answer some of your reader-generated questions.
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