Discussion and workshop by Marley Amico (Drew University, Fall 2016)

Why this workshop?

Students often struggle to read actively and therefore fail to get the most out of their readings. This workshop asks them to focus on a small sample of text, read and highlight it and then discuss what they took from it. In addition to students learning strategies for highlighting and note-taking, instructors may find this workshop a useful way to gauge the reading skills of their students.


Students will have a better sense of how to get more information out of their readings and remember more of that information so they can contribute to class discussions and write more effective  papers.

The Workshop

  1. Begin the session with a brief discussion of reading strategies and the importance of active reading. You may want to discuss how you read and even demonstrate an annotated text.
  2. Review the strategies for highlighting at the beginning of the workshop handout,
  3. then ask students to practice reading and highlighting the paragraph provided.
  4. Once they have highlighted the text, students should be put into groups (ideally 3-5 students per group) and asked to compare their highlighting and perhaps use it to write a one or two sentence summary of the main point of the paragraph.


You may want to highlight the text yourself and invite students to compare their highlighting with yours.

You may want to replace the sample with a sample from your class, this can be particularly helpful for a difficult text, the first reading of the semester, or an anchor text that needs to be understood if students are to learn essential concepts in the course.


Copy the material below and print as a handout or share it with students



  1. Determine what information you need to know – what is the goal of reading this reading? What purpose will it serve in class discussions, future papers? Use those question to guide your highlighting process.
  2. Try not to highlight more than one or two lines per paragraph – use highlighting as a tool to focus in on the most important parts of a paragraph, as well as a tool for your own future reference: what will future you want to remember about this specific paragraph?
  3. Don’t over-highlight! It will muddle your brain. By making deliberate choices about what you find most important for future reference.


Practice here: You would use this paragraph in the context of a paper that is supposed to discuss how black motherhood is devalued in the United States and its impact on children:

Race and class discrimination in these cases will continue to be ignored unless special efforts are made to expose this problem.209 By focusing on historical race and class discrimination and the present hardships and barriers that poor, minority women are challenged by, the racial and class bias that underlies the criminal prosecution of pregnant users can be uncovered, discussed, and hopefully remedied.210 Framing the constitutional issue at stake as a violation of reproductive liberty also aids in confronting the devaluation of black motherhood.211 The need for action in this situation is especially urgent following the United States Supreme Court’s decision to deny certiorari on Cornelia Whitner’s appeal. This denial essentially upholds South Carolina’s criminal prosecution of pregnant drug users and allows other states to follow suit with the same devastating impact.212 Allowing these prosecutions to continue will only further degrade Black motherhood and result in throwing more children into an already overburdened child welfare system. Is this in the best interest of the child?

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