About Education: Essay #3, “SQ3R” (Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review)

SQ3R (Survery, Question, Read, Recite, Review)

When the student practices SQ3R when reading his textbooks, he must become what is referred to in reading circles as being an “active reader,” as opposed to being a passive reader. This essay will, first, give parents some general information about textbook reading so that they will better be able to explain the phrase “active reader” to their children. Then, this essay will expain how, specifically, students should engage actively with their textbooks. Finally, the essay will explain in detail SQ3R, the read-study technique in which students must be active readers by interacting with their textbooks, as they read.


In general, the higher the grade level readability of textbooks, the more complex the vocabulary within paragraphs (i.e., the greater the number of syllables in words and the more complex their meanings), the more intricate the sentence structure and paragraph structure, and the more concentrated the ideas within and between paragraphs will become.

Just as in the classroom, each student brings a different conceptual understanding to various areas within each curriculum discipline (art, history, science), each student, likewise, brings a different conceptual understanding to the ideas within every passage in a book. This is called the student’s experiential (experience) background to the passage. Students should be encouraged to “tap into” whatever their individual experiential background is (simple or advanced) regarding the content of a passage BEFORE they read any passage. As a parent or teacher, you may encourage this through engaging in questions and answers with the child or by encouraging him or her to discuss their experiences (related to the passage) with you or among themselves.

Students should PREREAD material before actually reading the passages or textbook. I call this developing a SKELETAL FRAMEWORK of the material. They establish this skeletal outline by reading headings and subheadings or first sentences of paragraphs, if there are no headings or subheadings.

Before reading, also, students should understand that they READ FOR A PURPOSE. As a parent or teacher, you may help them determine that purpose through asking questions such as, “What is the author’s point of view, or a character’s point of view?” “What is the tone of the passage?” “Is the passage basically based on fact or opinion?”

Just as teachers wish to have students INTERACT with them during a lecture, or INTERACT with them and other students during a discussion, so your child should understand that they should interact with the book or textbook. (The printed word is simply “talk written down.”) This is the process whereby they become ACTIVE, not passive, READERS.

By interacting with the textbook, the reader asks questions of the text, brainstorms with it, tests the validity of evidence, draws logical conclusions, determines outcomes, recalls historical and literary movements, as well as time periods as they affect the ideas in the passage, analyzes human behavior from studying the passage, role plays by putting him/herself in the position of the author or of any or every character in the passage, and visualizes the scenes or events which occur in the passage. These are only some of the ways a reader may interact with a passage. The interaction should be a conscious act. The reader should know exactly what his method is. The teacher or parent should aid the student-reader in making the interaction with the textbook a conscious technique.

A formal method, which has had much success with readers since the 1930s, and which incorporates both prereading and interaction with the textbook is the SQ3R technique.

This technique is to:

SURVEY the material of the entire chapter before reading it. This includes reading introductions, summaries, graphics, word lists, quesions at the end of chapters, as well as headings and subheadings, or first sentences of paragraphs if there are no subheadings, before reading the chapter.

QUESTION the material by turning the headings, subheadings, or first sentences of paragraphs, into quesions and then reading to answer those questions, specifically.  Example: Subheading entitled, “Causes of World War II” – Question to be asked before reading that passage is, “What were the causes of World War II?” (This is part one of the INTERACTION with the textbook process, described earlier.)

READ the material in small segments (one subheading’s passage, or one or two paragraphs at a time, maximum) to answer the questions posed earlier. This is reading for a purpose. (This is part two of the INTERACTION with the textbook, described earlier.)

RECITE the answers to the questions posed earlier. This, of course, may be a mental recitation instead of a verbal one. You may want to start the child/student with the process by asking him to give you verbal answers to the questions posed, but as he progresses in self-confidence in using the technique, he should be able to transition to answering the questions for himself, silently. In either case, the child/student should not continue reading into the next paragraphs until he can answer correctly the questions posed for the previous paragraphs. If he cannot correctly answer the questions previously posed, he has not truly comprehended that passage, and he should reread that passage again until he can answer the questions correctly. Only then, should he advance to the next subheading, in which he will again generate questions based on the subheading’s title, (or first sentences – topic sentences usually – if subheadings are missing), before he reads that next passage for meaning. (This is part three of the INTERACTION with the textbook, described earlier.)

REVIEW the whole chapter or story by reading, again, all of the headings/subheadings, and then by turning them into questions, again, to determine if one can answer the questions posed. This step will have established the whole SKELETAL FRAMEWORK (or outline) for the entire chapter, and not just small segments of it (subheading passages). When the student is able to keep the entire SKELETAL FRAMEWORK, or outline, of the whole chapter in his mind, he will better be able to remember or recall the information and ideas within the chapter. He can see how headings and subheadings relate to one another in progression of ideas throughout the chapter.  Seeing this overview of ideas, with cohesion, helps the student to store the chapter’s content in his memory, thus aiding his retention of the content long-term, as well as increasing his test-taking skills.

(By February 12th, I will post, “Expanded Information Regarding SQ3R” which will especially be of help to reluctant readers. That information will be contained in Educational Essay #4, on this blog.)

This entry was posted in Active Readers Interact with Text, Read for Purpose, SQ3R, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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