Revisiting the SQ3R Reading
By Frank Holes, Jr.
Many teachers have used the SQ3R reading strategy
successfully for years. For new teachers, this can have a positive impact on
whatever class, grade, or subject you are teaching. Reading is a vital skill in
every class and every subject area, and a strategy to improve students' reading
while working on specific class material is extremely beneficial.
SQ3R is an instructional strategy for improving reading comprehension. It
is an acronym for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review. Each of these
activities focuses on a technique integral to the reading process. The uses in
the language arts seem rather obvious, but SQ3R is great for other areas too.
This can be used in social studies classes when reading through a new section of
the textbook. Science teachers use it to kick off new units and in new labs.
Math teachers can even use it to teach students to take notes from their books.
Possibilities are endless.
Like any other technique, you will want to teach this carefully to your students
and discuss each part together in class. While there are many ways of
interpreting and using the SQ3R strategy, in this article I'll be sharing how we
use it in our classroom.
'Survey' refers to skimming the reading quickly. Students look for items that
catch their eyes - titles, headlines, photos, pictures, graphs, bold-faced or
italicized words. Sometimes I refer to them as 'sticky words' since the reader's
eyes tend to stick to them. After the quick scan, students write down the first
six items their eyes 'catch' upon. Just a word or short phrase is fine, as we
want to keep this part short and sweet.
'Question' is the part where students make predictions and pose questions about
what they've surveyed. We have students create and write down three questions in
complete sentences based on what they surveyed.
Complete sentences requires students to think carefully about the info they
skimmed, and put it into a logical organized form. Early on, students may pose
rather simple questions. We do not allow easy yes/no questions, those with one
word answers, or questions they already know the answers to. We even spend class
time discussing what makes 'good' questions.
Once the pre-reading is finished, the 'Read' part is just that – the students
now read carefully through the section, paying attention to everything on the
page. It's important to find the answers to their questions. We have the
students then answer their posed questions in complete sentences. Sometimes
students may have posed questions that are unanswerable or not found in the
reading. We do allow students to state that the answer was not found in the
reading. That's ok, as long as they don't make a habit of it. If such a habit
does form, simply require students to state where they could find the answer.
'Recite' refers to putting the data from the reading into a new use. We often
create short freewrites to discuss the implications of the reading, or its
applications. You can also create writing topics for students to respond to.
'Review' is, again, self-explanatory, as students review the material. We have
students create quiz questions based on the reading, just as if they were the
teacher. However, they are not allowed to use their questions posed previously!
Students can create ten multiple choice or true/false questions. Sometimes we
assign creating fill-in-the banks statements, or even have students make their
own essay questions or writing topics. You could even have them create
crosswords or other word puzzles.
To make the SQ3R technique easy to do and grade, we've created a form that is
used through our school. It is specific enough to cover all of the areas, and
yet general enough to allow individual teachers to adapt and customize this
strategy to their class, students, or current assignments.
You can download a free copy of our SQ3R worksheet on our website by clicking
the link below:
The SQ3R technique is easy to use and adapt yourself, once you and your students
are comfortable with its components. We've used it as a warm-up activity, as a
closing activity, and as a sponge. It is also useful when you need
easy-to-follow plans for a substitute. Most importantly, this is a powerful, yet
simple, tool you can use in any class to improve students' reading skills.
Interested in FREE writing activities you can print out and use immediately in
your classroom? Simply click the following link to our writing page:
For this article, and more on teaching and education, be sure to check out our
Frank Holes, Jr. is the editor of the StarTeaching website and the bi-monthly
newsletter, Features for Teachers. Check out our latest issue at:
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