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Program Summary

As part of a unit on the 1960s, the teacher divides his American History class into groups of three. Each group chooses a specific topic to research and present to the rest of the class.

Doug, Neal and Jill decide to research the civil rights movement. Doug and Neal have no difficulty with their parts of the assignment, which include reading a biography and interviewing Doug’s aunt, who took part in the famous rally in Washington in 1963. But Jill is terrified of her part, which is to read and report on a textbook chapter dealing with this topic.

Jill confides her fears to her friend Sonia, who offers to help her. Sonia introduces Jill to the system of reading comprehension called, from the initials of its five steps, SQ3R.

The first step, Sonia Explains, is Survey. In tackling the textbook chapter on the civil rights movement, for example, Jill shouldn’t simply plunge in at the first paragraph. Instead, she should first survey the chapter as a whole. She should look over the chapter title and the title of its subheadings. She should also examine the chapter summary, if there is one, and any picture captions, graphs, charts, and documentary material the chapter might contain. Thus, she will have a good idea of the overall content and structure of the chapter even before she reads it.

The second step, Sonia tells Jill, is Question. That is, as Jill starts to read each section of the text, she should ask herself one or more questions that she expects the section to answer. For example, for a section headed, “Voting Rights Act of 1965,” an obvious question is, “What was the Voting Rights Act of 1965 about?” And for a section headed, “Desegregation Comes Slowly,” a question might be, “How slow was desegregation?” Asking such questions helps the reader focus attention on the content of the material being read.

The next step, the first of the three R’s, is Read. Jill reads the textbook section on the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and finds that her comprehension of it is greatly enhanced by her initial survey of the chapter and by the questions she asked herself as she began. As a result of her preliminary work, the section really makes sense for her.

The fourth step is Recite. Sonia has Jill recite a summary of the section she has just read. Jill finds that this helps her absorb and remember its content. Even better than reciting aloud, Sonia tells her, is to write the summary down.

The fifth step and the final R is Review. Once she has written down summaries of all the sections of the chapter, Jill should review them, first as she finishes reading and then about a week later, or before and exam on the material. This will eliminate the need for last minute cramming.

The class presentation goes well. Doug and Neal present the results of their interview and other research, and Jill, well prepared and confident, summarizes the main events and issues of the civil rights struggle from the sit-ins of 1960 through the progress toward desegregation in the last half of the decade.

• Post-Test

1. Imagine that you have been given a reading assignment of a chapter from a textbook. Which of the following strategies is likely to be the most effective?

a) Read the first and last sentence of the first paragraph. Determine the main idea of the paragraph and copy it into your notebook. Follow the same procedure with each paragraph; then review your notes.

b) Read the first page of the assignment. In your notebook, write a paragraph summarizing the page. Do the same for each following page: then review your summaries.

c) Quickly look over the pages of the assignment before starting to read. As you start to read each section, ask yourself questions that you might expect the section to answer. As you read, make notes on each section and a summary of the whole chapter. Review your notes.

2. In surveying a work to be read, what elements would you look for to give you an overview of the content?

3. If you were to read a section of a text on the civil rights struggle of the 1960s, and it began with the heading, “Birmingham—The Turning Point,” what questions might you ask yourself about the material to come?

4. For what two reasons would it be useful to write summaries of what you have read?

• Post-Test Answers

1. The most successful strategy is likely to be “c”—the SQ3R system

2. They might include: chapter titles, text headings, illustration captions, charts and tables, and chapter summaries.

3. What happened in Birmingham to make it a turning point? What kind of turning point was it?

4. Summarizing the material in your own words will, first, improve your comprehension, and second, aid you in reviewing it later.

• Activities

1. To practice the “Survey” step in reading a textbook, have students do the following:

Look over the following mixed-up list and put its items in the most effective order for surveying a textbook chapter:

a) Note technical terms. b) Ask, “How does this chapter fit in?” c) Skim selected columns and paragraphs. d) Review the graphic aids. e) Make a list of questions to be answered. f) Focus on the chapter title. g) Look over the review questions. h) Analyze the section headings. i) Study the introduction or summary.

Variation in the appropriate order is acceptable if it can be defended. When consensus has been reached, have the class follow the steps with an assigned reading and discuss the results.

2. To practice the “Question” step, share with the class the following quotation by Rudyard Kipling:

I had six friends; they taught me all I knew, their names were “What,” “Where,” “When,” “Why,” “How,” and “Who.”

Tell the students to use these “friends” to create questions for the following textbook heading:


3. Assist students with the “Read” step by having them do the following:

a) Read to find the answers to the questions they have asked.

b) Then write down ten sentences completing: “I didn’t know that…”

c) Answer the question, “Of what use may this information be to me in the future?

4. Practice the “Review” step by having students do one of the following:

a) Use the “VAK” (Visual—Auditory—Kinesthetic) technique. That is, visualize the material, state its meaning aloud and write down key concepts. (Research indicates that if all three methods are used, memory is aided.)

b) Prepare an “Acrostic,” which is a technique in which the letters of a term, concept or name are used to convey the essential information about that term. For the term “New Immigration” the acrostic might begin:

N – Not received well by descendants of earlier immigrants.

E – Eastern European Countries.

W – Worked as writers, scientists, musicians, etc.