User:Okuboni/Reading for Meaning

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Unit 1: Reading for Meaning

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There is no single reason why people read. We read for relaxation, for enjoyment or to get information about something. We may even read when we have nothing else to do. Most of that reading may be described as informal reading. In this course, we are going beyond all of that and setting our sights on reading in the context of formal education and in particular at the higher education level. Reading is so critical to study in higher education that it was once customary to speak in terms of reading for a degree. A large part of your learning will take place through reading; so it is important that you approach your reading in a manner that allows you to derive meaning from what you are reading.

In general, this course is about reading for meaning. In this Unit, you --- will begin to develop and use skills that would strengthen your ability to derive the greatest amount of meaning from your reading

Session 3: Skills for Active Reading

As we continue our exploration of what we mean by reading for meaning, we now turn our attention to the skills that we can use to strengthen our capability to read for meaning. Using these skills enables us to function as active rather than passive readers. We begin this session by distinguishing between active and passive reading, then we proceed to describe in some detail the skills that would allow us to function as active readers, using either print-or web-based materials.

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After studying this session you will be able to:

  • Differentiate between active reading and passive reading;
  • Use appropriate reading skills when engaging with print-based texts.
  • Use appropriate skills when engaging with web-based materials

Study material for Objective # 1

Open the pdf file that is appended to this page and study the subsections of the teaching material that deal with the difference between passive and active reading (Pages 21-22). The relevant sections are as follows:

  • Two views of reading
  • Focus on the writer
  • Focus on the reader

It is important to be clear about the distinction between the two approaches to reading since your overall understanding and appreciation of the reading skills that follow will rely a great deal on your ability to see yourself as an active learner.

Now study the Teaching Material - Skills for Active Reading, Pages 21-22. You will find the link to this material at the end of the page.

Study material for Objective #2

The skills outlined in the related section of the teaching material assume that readers function not only as recipients of information but also as active agents, making meaning as they engage with text. Note that these skills are intended for use with print-based materials. The sections are as follows:

  • Readers read chunks rather than individual words
  • Readers make predictions about text
  • Readers use context clues, the most common being
    • Definitions
    • Synonyms
    • Concrete examples
    • Contrast clues
    • Description clues
    • Modifiers
    • Conjunctions
    • Repetition
    • Unstated or implied meanings

Now study the Teaching Material - Skills for Active learning, Pages 22-25. Follow the link at the end of the page.

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You have just examined three types of skills, which you can use to facilitate your reading. These were:

  • Reading chunks of text
  • Making predictions
  • Using context clues. Several types of context clues were described.

Apply what you have just learnt in completing the following.

  1. Read the two passages which follow:
    1. Nice Work by David Lodge
    2. Understanding the Plural Society by Barrow and Reddock (p. 182)
  2. Identify the reading skill (or skills) you used to read each passage. It is likely that you may have used more than one skill for a passage.
  3. Show how the specific skill (or skills) assisted you in understanding and interpreting the text.
  4. Your response for the entire assignment should be no more than two pages.
  5. Upload your assignment.

Guidelines for doing the assignment:

  1. Identify the skill you will be writing about in the first sentence of the relevant paragraph. For example, you may start the paragraph with the sentence, ‘One skill that I used when reading this passage was …’. If you used a second skill, you may start the second paragraph with the sentence ‘Another skill that I used was …’.
  2. Remember that you are showing HOW you used the skill. This means that you cannot simply summarise important or interesting things that you read in the passage. That shows that you understood what you read, but it does not indicate what you did MENTALLY to be able to understand.
  3. Again, the purpose of the exercise is to show HOW you used the skill. So do not simply name a skill (or skills), and describe it (them). You must go beyond that and show how you applied that skill to the reading material in order to understand or interpret the text or some part of it.
  4. Illustrate your explanation with reference to some appropriate part of the relevant passage.

Your tutor will grade this assignment.

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Nice Work by David Lodge

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Tip: Click on the link below to access the reading. When you are through use the back button at the top left hand corner to return to this page.

Excerpt from Nice Work, pp. 147-150

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Understanding the Plural Society by Barrow and Reddock

Excerpt from Understanding the Plural Society, p. 182

Study material for Objective #3

Up to this point, our focus has been on reading print material. In this section, we examine the skills for reading materials on the web. To do that, we will be using some terms related to the online environment, such as webpage, homepage, navigation bar and search engine. If you need to remind yourself of their meanings, you should re-check your Orientation to Online Learning manual before proceeding.

The subsections are as follows:

  • Strategies for reading hypertext on the Internet
    • Following the link
    • Examining the new information
    • Extensive vs. intensive reading
  • Evaluating websites

Now study the Teaching material - Skills for Active Reading, pages 29-34.

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Strategies for conducting online research
For this assignment, you are required to outline the steps taken to conduct a web-based research on one of the topics listed below. Please note that you are not required to present the results of the search; in other words the purpose of this exercise is not to write a research report on a particular topic. Rather, you will be outlining what you did as you went through the process of conducting the research. You will therefore select a topic from the list given below, narrow the topic and conduct an online search on the narrowed topic. As you do that, you are expected to take note of the actions that you engage in. As a result, you will perform the following tasks for this assignment:

  • Name the topic that you have selected
  • State the narrowed topic that you used to conduct the search (see guidelines below).
  • List all the actions that you took as you conducted the search.
  • List the websites that you used to conduct your search. These should be no more than 3.
  • Give a brief evaluation of one of these websites..
  • Upload the assignment. It should be no more than 2 pages.

The topics are as follows:

  • Global warming
  • Pod-casting
  • Blogs
  • Poverty Reduction

Suggested websites:

Guidelines for doing the assignment:

  • Narrowing the topic: What you are doing here is deciding on an angle for researching the broad topic. Below are examples of how I chose to narrow 3 topics (note that these topics are not in the list above):
    • Topic: Floods; Narrowed topic: Causes of floods
    • Topic: Crime; Narrowed topic: Measures to curb crime
    • Topic: Mobile phone; Narrowed topic: Social impact of the mobile phone
  • Listing the actions for conducting the search: Note that these actions will include both those that are observable (e.g. make a note, scroll down the page) and those that are unobservable, that is, they take place in your head (e.g. select a sub-section for closer reading; compare). In addition, avoid simply listing a series of verbs; the verbs must be linked to the particular context in which the action was carried out. Following are some actions that I may take in relation to my search on Measures to curb crime
    • Assess the 2006 Police Report to determine whether it included measures to curb crime.
    • Scroll back up the current webpage of the Community Policing website to re-scan all heads and subheads.
    • Compare the contents of subsection X with notes previously made from UNODC website.
  • Listing websites: It is likely that you will browse through more than three, but focus on three for this assignment. When identifying each site, write both its name and its URL. Also include the date when you accessed it.
  • Evaluating a selected website: Use the criteria that Burke (2001) provides to complete this part of the assignment.

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In this session we made a distinction between active reading and passive reading, in particular noting how each approach to reading influences the reader’s perspective of the roles of the reader and the writer respectively. Passive reading emphasizes the role of the writer in communicating meaning. While that role is still recognized in active reading, greater emphasis is placed on the role of the reader to build his/her own meaning as he/she engages with the text. Against that background, the session provided a detailed description of three key reading skills and provided opportunity for applying those skills. The session then discussed strategies for reading hypertext, drawing attention to the importance of recognizing the actions that one takes when conducting an online search. Finally, criteria for evaluating web-based materials were outlined.

Teaching materials - Skills for Active Reading


Barrow, C. and R. Reddock (eds). 2001. Understanding the plural society. In Caribbean Sociology: Introductory Readings. Kingston, Jamaica: Ian Randle Publishers Limited.

Burke, J. 2001. Illuminating text: how to teach students to read the world. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Fairbairn, G. and Fairbairn, S. 2001. Reading at University: A Guide for Students. Buckingham: Open University Press.

Lodge, D. 1988. Nice Work. London: Penguin Books