College Preparation is Rooted in Teaching Important Research Skills
Students that successfully transition from high school to college must be taught the importance and value of reading, as well as having the ability to write effectively
For graduating seniors, going to college is all about reading and writing. Unless students entering freshman classes have the skills to read assigned books and write papers and essays, they will falter and find the first year in college to be extremely difficult.
This student well-grounded in writing skills as an easy essay writer with taught disciplines regarding required readings will jump to the head of the class and emerge with the highest GPAs. Reading and writing skills are essential to college success.
The process must begin in high school. Both reading and writing must be an integral part of the high school educational objective.
This involves the assigning of “summer reading,” supplemental classroom novels or non-fiction books, and writing across the curriculum.
The newly created “writing” element of the reformed SAT hardly does justice to the poor writing skills of incoming freshmen.
Educational concepts like “reading comprehension” have all but evaporated as educators sense a losing battle in which students either refuse to read assigned books, hoping to “wing” the assessment, or students use online sources like “Spark Notes” to obtain key insights into the readings.
Although Cliff Notes were the bane of teachers before the internet (nobody ever knew who wrote them), new online websites take all of the fun out of reading by providing every aspect of any assigned book. Little wonder many students stridently boast that they never actually read a book in high school.
Perhaps the best way to ensure that students read the assigned books is to follow several possible assessment concepts:
- Objective, daily quizzes on the chapters assigned
- Class discussion of key concepts, plot, and resolution
- Written notes (handwritten) on assigned chapters or sections
- Have students prepare discussion questions
Along with reading accountability, students must be trained on how to write good papers and essays. Breaking down the paper writing can involve
- Developing a thesis
- Isolating sub-themes that support the thesis
- Paragraph-outlining the paper (once the research is completed)
- Detailing internal documentation (usually on 3×5 cards)
- Crafting a preliminary bibliography
Additionally, students must be taught proper sourcing formats. This can include MLA (favored by English departments), APA (used in Psychology and Education in college research), or Chicago (formerly Turabian style, the traditional format in History).
Should students know the nuances of all three styles? If the goal is college preparation, then all three styles should be taught in the high school or just to pay for an essay, ideally in classes that conform to the different methods (Psychology – APA).
Perhaps the most important lesson students can learn is to proofread their final drafts. Most students write the paper in one sitting. There are no first drafts.
Once completed, the papers are turned in, too often replete with misspellings, sentence fragments, paragraphing problems, and internal documentation errors.
Although some students transitioning to college may never write a paper or essay during their first year, most will.
Having the skills to accomplish these requirements will give students a distinct advantage over their peers as well as impress professors that are accustomed to students who simply cannot write papers.
Teaching students how to read and how to write maybe the two most important academic goals for students considering higher education.
High schools that neglect these vital areas of preparation do a tremendous disservice to graduating students and may need to reassess curriculum goals to develop effective reading and writing programs.
This effort must be cross-curricular and every department and faculty member must be solidly “on board” with the goals.