Sunday, December 30, 2018

2019 EDU: Why a reading assignment is like a treasure hunt. And why it is not.

Why a reading assignment 
is like a treasure hunt.  
And why it is not.

Consideration of similarities and differences between reading assignments and treasure hunts suggests strategies to manage reading assignments so as to give them some of the natural attractions of treasure hunts.
The Empty Classroom


  • Reading:  Students are to find the important things.  
  • Treasure hunt: People are to find things deemed important by the organizers.
  • Reading:  Students can develop skills in finding important things.  
  • Treasure hunt: People can develop skills in finding treasure hunt targets
  • Reading: Students can develop skills in organizing their findings for easy memory. 
  • Treasure hunt: People can develop skills in packing things for ease in carrying,


  • Unlike:
  • Students like treasure hunts
  • Do schools teach the skill of selecting the important things in a reading assignment?
  • Do schools teach the skill of organizing important things in a reading assignment?
  • Is there anything to be taught about selecting important things?
  • Could learning that skill be developed in a game?



  • Reading:  Students can develop useful reading skills.  
  • Treasure hunt: People can develop skills of no recognized value.
  • Reading:  Students see no immediate gain in finding important things.
  • Treasure hunt: People see immediate gain in finding targets of the hunt.
  • Reading:  Students do the task by themselves.
  • Treasure hunt: People generally do the task in groups.
  • Reading:  Students do the task because they have to and complain of boredom.
  • Treasure hunt: People choose to do the task and enjoy it.
  • Reading:  Selecting the important things is just one skill in a reading assignment
  • Treasure hunt: A treasure hunt is done when you get all the treasures.

What could be taught about selecting the important things?

From standard presentation methods (1)

  • Items mentioned in the introduction or summary
  • Bullet points at the beginning of a section
  • Section headings
  • Bold and italics 
  • Questions in text
  • Hypertext (in modern text presentations)
  • Items mentioned more than once in the chapter
  • Study questions after a chapter
  • The first sentence in long paragraphs
  • Items in a glossary
  • Items with multiple references in the index

What could be taught about organizing things to remember?

  • Why am I reading this?  
  • How does this information relate to the rest of the course?
  • What new things do I want to be able to do after I read this?  

How could learning these skills be developed into a game?

  • Skills are best learned by practice.
  • This task is read with understanding, and remember later.
  • A practice task would call for such reading and an evaluated recall event.
  • Here is a sample task I propose (for trial).

Group practice: Boss and Worker (computer managed)

  • "Class" size: 12 to any number of students
  • Two students per group, randomly assigned at first.
  • Reading material: drawn from content the students are to be able to read.
  • Content length: about ten minutes at the typical reading speed for these students.
  • The two students read different assignments.  Time limit 12 minutes.
  • One student is designated "Boss" and the other "Worker."
  • Boss briefs Worker about the Boss's reading assignment 
  • Worker asks questions and gets answers as needed.
  • They switch roles and follow the same procedure with the second assignment.
  • Students are separated; each answers questions about the other's assignment. 
  • The questions measure the ability to select adequate summaries.
  • Bosses and Workers get tokens in accordance with the adequacy of the answers.
  • Each student can choose to remain with the partner: 
  • The pairing continues if both so choose; otherwise new random pairing is done. 
  • The tokens may be allowed to buy something of value to the student. 
  • The tokens will also buy evaluation;  if the evaluation is favorable, the unit is passed.


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  • Selby Evans in Kitely, Thinkerer Melville in Second Life


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