Normally you should read the material at
least twice. More difficult material you may have to
read more often.
i) During the first reading you should continuously
write down your responses in your journal (with page or
paragraph numbers so you can retrace the passage to which
a particular response refers). These may include
emotional responses (excitement, boredom,
anger, or whatever);
associations (links you make with other
readings you remember, things you have heard of, or that
happened to you, etc.);
agreement with the text
disagreement with the text
neutrality with respect to the opinion given in
registering your understanding or
non-understanding of the text, writing down the sentences
that you found hard, the words you did not know.
if the reading contains photographs, drawings,
or diagrams studying these carefully, and registering
if there are formulas in the reading making an
effort to understand them.
So in the first reading you mainly work on the skill:
"Tapping into your stock of knowledge and emotional
powers" All these notes form part of what I call "The
response to the reading". It is the "subjective part" of
the response since it is a report of what you (initially)
felt and came up with while reading.
Of course even in the first reading often you will
have a pretty accurate impression of most of what the
text says. But sometimes your responses may get in the
way of understanding the text as it wants to be
understood! On the other hand, if you immediately focus
solely on what the text says your creative associations
and emotions may fail to show.
Therefore a second reading is needed to make a good
analysis and summary of the main points and arguments of
the text. In this second reading you focus solely on what
the text says.
ii) First consult a dictionary for all the words that
you didn't understand that well; consult an encyclopedia
or specialized dictionary for some of the background you
feel you may be lacking; use an atlas if necessary.
[If you don't have these handy, work in the
Then make a summary of your text. Identify the most
important points. How do these points relate? What
reasons are given for these points? List them! How do the
illustrations, if there are any, relate to the text? Does
the author anticipate objections and how does s/he try to
counter these objections? That is, you try to lay bare
the argumentative structure of the text, and the imagery
the text uses to support its reasoning. All this activity
is part of "Critical Thinking".
So, in the second reading you mainly work on the
skill: "Understanding what the text is saying " This is
what I have called "The summary of the reading". It is
the "objective part" of the response since it is (or
should be) a faithful account of what the text is saying,
without any intrusion of what you think of it.
iii) You are not done yet! A response also has a third
part, called "Leading questions". This is the question or
comment for your entry ticket. Actually more then just
posing questions is involved in this: therefore we better
call it "Leading the Discussion". The purpose of the
third part is to develop and exercise the third skill:
Extending the discussion, and our common stock of
knowledge and concerns, by raising new questions,
formulating points of view and reasons for them,
formulating objections and defenses of them.
The third part is an "inter-subjective" part, since it
relates your subjective responses to the group of
students and instructor as a whole (and beyond that to a
bigger public discussion within which we can imagine our
group to be embedded
). You take, as it were, a
step back and look at your subjective responses and ask
yourself: how can I reformulate and motivate these
responses such that they become of interests to other
people in the group. Going through the earlier list
emotional responses: why did I have these
responses (why was I bored, angry, excited..?), what
values and beliefs do these emotions reveal I must hold?;
were these appropriate emotional responses ?
[emotional responses are appropriate if the beliefs
they express are true, and the values they reflect are
defensible]; what courses of action are suggested by
these responses? How can I express this so others can
understand what I mean?
associations: which of my associations can I
share with others so that it brings out something of
general interest? Can I bring to class or suggest other
readings that I think are related? Can I formulate
another issue that is related to the one discussed in the
text? Can I explain how it is related?
if I agreed with something in the text, why? Do
I have further supporting reasons that support the
opinion given in the reading?
if I disagreed with the text, what reasons can
I give for disagreement?
are all the reasons (pro and con) together
compelling for all reasonable people, or is it a matter
of weighing off and of personal preference?
neutrality: if I am not convinced one way or
another, what further evidence do I need to formulate an
opinion about the matter?
non-understanding of the text: can I formulate
a question about a passage to help me better understand
photographs, drawings, or diagrams: can I bring
to class other images that I can relate to the reading?
Explain how they relate?
So the third part of the preparation contains a
blueprint for what you plan to contribute to the group
discussion! You work this out as a Position
Statement in which you explain what your point of
view is about the issues brought up in this reading and
end by posing two questions that can be used as opening
questions for a discussion of this paper.
Type out this position statement for your entry
ticket. It should be at least one page typed.