Supporting Reading

In Short

Although your students are without doubt adept readers of many texts, they may still benefit from training in how to read the specialized material used in your discipline.  Demonstrating some ways that experts in your field read can help students to be more confident and skilled as they navigate new kinds of disciplinary knowledge.

Goals: Why Teach Reading?

  • Teaching reading can help students to learn specific aims and approaches to knowledge within your discipline
  • Through reading attentively, students can better understand key concepts and perspectives in your field
  • Supporting reading anchors and extends the scope of student learning more broadly


Key Considerations 

  • Context counts. When constructing your syllabus you might think of individual readings as contributing to the meta-text of the course, and then make this legible to your students, for instance by providing a brief guide for readings to explain how texts relate to one another, the week’s topic, and/or the overarching themes of the course.
  • Match the amount of reading with your learning goals. To prepare students for specific topics covered in class meetings, assign a manageable quantity of reading; Rice University has produced a helpful guide and reading load calculator. If you are assigning reading in order to expand students’ contextual knowledge, consider assigning different students to different texts and have them share their knowledge through online discussion forums or in presentations.
  • Consider accessibility. Increased access to your course materials benefits all and is essential for some students. Princeton Course Reserves can increase accessibility. PDFs should be good quality and legible to screen reading software. We have compiled a list of ways to help you make your course accessible to all students, including in the digital texts you assign.
  • Make reading active:
    • Demonstrate how you read by choosing a key passage to read aloud in class while narrating your thought processes and strategies for coming to understanding.
    • Share your personal reading history. By sharing your own experiences as a reader, you can invite students to see reading challenges as opportunities for growth. For instance, as an ice breaker, you might write a short description of who you are as a reader, and how it has helped you to read disciplinary texts, then ask students to share their own.
    • Use annotation tools to encourage students’ active engagement. Canvas integrates with excellent tools that can help make reading feel more social by allowing for online group annotation and discussion, and can reveal key places of confusion.
  • Support Recall
    • Assign 25-word abstracts. Ask students to sift reading material for main points and write 25-word abstracts; you might highlight a few that capture especially well the ideas of the text.
    • Encourage metacognitive reading logs especially for close reading tasks. Ask students to list on the left side of a page important ideas and information, and on the right side the thoughts, feelings, and questions that arise with those observations.
  • Integrate and Expand Reading
    • Encourage collaboration by asking students in pairs or small groups to reflect on a new section of text or their reading logs, raising questions that arose. Then, invite students to share their discussion with the class or in larger groups.
    • Invite contextualization. Rather than posing questions in a discussion forum, ask students to investigate and share topics of interest related to the reading, offering new perspectives or clarifications. Asynchronous discussion forums offer easy ways for students to share links and multimedia resources.


Digital Tools

  • Canvas Discussions allows threaded replies in written, image, video, and audio form integrated with the Gradebook and Speedgrader.
  • Harmonize Discussions offer additional asynchronous discussion options also integrated into Canvas Speedgrader and Gradebook, including grid view, video and image annotation, and anonymous posting.
  • Hypothesis is a collaborative, digital annotation tool, which allows students to add comments, notes, and highlights to the margins of a shared digital document.
  • Perusall allows instructors to gather reading materials for a course in one place for students to read and annotate collectively.




Updated 8/22/21