Unit 2: Active Reading for Comprehension


Performance Objective

  • After reviewing common active reading strategies, participants will apply them to the digital space for an improved comprehension experience.

Driving Question

What is Active Reading and how can the strategies be used in a digital format?

The Voices of Experience

What is Active Reading?

Have you ever read a paragraph, a page, or even a chapter only to realize that, although you saw every word, you had no idea what you had read? When passively reading, it's possible to view the words without mentally processing them. Running our eyes over sentences does not mean we are thinking about them. Reading for comprehension and meaning requires an active approach that forces the reader to interact mindfully and kinesthetically with the text.

California State University’s Writing Resource Lab (2010) succinctly defines and summarizes the importance of active reading for developing critical reading skills:

    Academic reading is not a passive activity but requires purposeful and active engagement with the text. In 
    order to fully absorb and understand the written material, you must read actively by taking steps to 
    understand a text before, during, and after your full reading of it. Specifically, reading actively is 
    necessary for thinking critically about a text and fully comprehending and recalling the material. Active
    reading usually includes browsing the material before reading, annotating and highlighting or underlining 
    while reading, and reviewing the material after reading.

There are a number of excellent active reading strategies to keep readers engaged and interacting with meaning as they read. The link below provides a comprehensive list of actions "that makes things easier to understand and enables readers to retain information for a longer period of time" (Monterey Peninsula College).

Active Reading Strategies

Why should teachers address active reading techniques specifically targeted to digital formats?

Active strategies are intentional practices that require a slower pace of reading. One of "The biggest challenge[s] to reading attentively on digital platforms is that we largely use digital devices for quick action: Look up an address, send a Facebook status update, grab the news headlines (but not the meat of the article), multitask between online shopping and writing an essay. When we go to read something substantive on a laptop or e-reader, tablet, or mobile phone, our now-habitualized instincts tell us to move things along" (Baron, 2017). Many readers find that they read faster online, which is the result of a mindset of "scanning" for pertinent information that is associated with digital formats. As educators begin to shift academic and critical reading activities to the screen, they need to help students establish a new mindset for reading "that means disrupting a pattern of skipping around, writing short chats and getting lost down the rabbit hole of the internet" (Schwartz, 2016).

Let's Take a Look

There are several sites available that provide active reading capabilities to online readers. For readers to question, highlight, and otherwise markup a digital text, they will need to use an online annotation tool. When these practices are employed in the online environment, they can become even more effective than when used in print. In addition to providing an engaging, close reading experience, online annotation tools allow:

  • Students to easily share their text notes and questions with classmates and with the teacher
  • Students to collaborate learning over text and discuss readings asynchronously
  • Teachers to formatively assess student understanding of readings
  • Teachers to provide prompt feedback for better student comprehension

A reader can be researching from websites, reviewing a PDF article, or reading literature online and, by employing an annotation site, markup a text with notes, questions, and connections that can be saved and shared. Teachers can annotate digital formats with questions and notes before sharing the text to students. In this way, teachers can help students focus on critical ideas as they read.

The following choices are free for basic use, but do have fees for “upgraded plans.” Review the following annotation sites and their demo videos for their individual tools and uses.

Link to Scrible

Link to Diigo

Link to Markup

Give It A Try!

If you would like to, sign up and try using an annotation site! You can attempt to annotate the Harper Lee research from Unit 1 or any other online reading that you may use.

Journal Your Thinking

For this activity, you can keep a personal journal document or become part of the online KNILT learning community by posting your reflections and/or questions of your own.

Here are a few considerations when evaluating the annotated reading experience:

Which active reading strategies are targeted by employing annotation?

In what ways does digital annotation enhance the benefits of print annotation?

How does the expectation of annotation change your reading experience?

Does this method of active reading foster a close reading mindset for digital texts?

Join the conversation and learn about the experiences of other readers by reviewing:

Talk:Unit 2: Active Reading for Comprehension

Unit 3: Keeping the Focus on Reading


Etap 623

Carrie Kagan Portfolio

Digital Reading for Comprehension

Unit 1: What's the Difference Between Paper and Screen Reading?

Unit 2: Active Reading for Comprehension

Unit 3: Keeping the Focus on Reading


California State University Writer’s Resource Lab. (2010). Active Reading [PDF file]. Retrieved from http://www.cla.csulb.edu/departments/english/docs/ACTIVEREADING.pdf

Monterey Peninsula College. Active Reading Strategies [PDF file]. Retrieved from https://www.mpc.edu/home/showdocument?id=28717

Schwartz, K. (2016). Strategies to Help Students 'Go Deep' When Reading Digitally. Retrieved 23 November 2019, from https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/46426/strategies-to-help-students-go-deep-when-reading-digitally