If you are a reader of my blog or a follower on Twitter, you will probably note that I am a big fan of Academic Reading Circles. I have convinced at least one other faculty member to use them regularly, and I have given several presentations about ARCs. I own the e-book, but hope to get the paper edition one day, signed by Tyson himself.
Anyway, I am always trying to find new ways of tweaking ARCs to fit student levels, class needs, and in general, improve the quality of the work students do. Sometimes, the biggest struggle is getting students to analyze texts in-depth from the different perspectives (roles). It’s not uncommon for students to ask superficial questions as the Leader, choose irrelevant vocabulary as the Highlighter, or unimportant references as the Contextualizer. A lot of this comes down to introducing and scaffolding ARCs in the right way.
We typically build an abbreviated version of ARC handouts together as a class, working with all roles. I also get students of the same role to work together during their first ARC so that they can work together to build knowledge of their role, and so I can easily give feedback. We also work on the different microskills that ARCs encourage throughout the term, such as working with contextual references during non-ARC readings.
However, I have also found one other idea to be very effective at introducing and maintaining ARC perspectives: priming articles with guiding questions. I believe Tyson has mentioned this before, but I’m not sure where – I don’t think in his book. What I mean by priming is giving students articles that are annotated with a few questions meant to get them thinking and reading through the lens they have been assigned. I always provide printed copies of the articles and add line numbers for ease of discussion. I also provide comments in the margins that ask different roles questions. I have found that this priming is effective at getting students in the right mindset, assuring deeper analysis, and, in turn, a quality discussion.
Check out my example below: