Strategy #3: Using self-monitoring

While self-talk can be helpful, self-monitoring is most productive when combined with an active reading strategy to help reinforce or test comprehension. Students should be sure to pick the strategies that are most appropriate to the reading situation, not just the easiest. Here are some directions you can give to your students. Before your students start with this metacognitive assignment, tell them that the entire time they are working, they need to monitor their reading comprehension. In other words, they should be especially aware of points where they struggle with understanding the reading. This gets them in the practice of being self-aware. The remaining parts of the assignment teach them strategies for gaining control of their reading comprehension. Credit could take the form of a completion grade while the students' skills are developing and a content grade later in the semester.

1. Stop after every section of the assigned reading in a textbook--often a textbook will separate major ideas with boldfaced headings--and summarize what you read. Write down the main idea--stated or implied--and key supporting ideas. If this is done with ease, you might not need to continue. If you struggle to complete this, move to the strategies in number 2.

2. If you have difficulty with the summary, do one or more of the following, and then write the summary of the reading selection.

  • Re-read the section again, paying attention to the development of one or more main ideas. (Sometimes identifying the supporting examples and evidence first will help you identify the main idea.)
  • Look up unfamiliar vocabulary before or during re-reading.
  • Stop and picture examples or explanations.
  • Outline difficult paragraphs or do a concept map or a process diagram.
  • Do some internet research on ideas or concepts with which the author seems to assume a familiarity.
  • Connect the reading to ideas presented in class.
  • Work with a classmate. Two heads may be better than one.

If one or more of these strategies has improved your understanding, you should be ready to write the summary or outline.

3. Share your results in groups, either in class, or on a course website, wiki, or blog.


The first time this strategy is assigned, model it in class with a section from the textbook. Or, instead of taking class time, have a TA make it the subject of a "review" session. Although it may take five or ten minutes out of a lecture, it may be well worth it for those students who need it!