Whatcha Doin’? The Realities of Reading Week

As an undergraduate student, I dreaded reading week. Reading week means assignments and tests were coming or were already here. As an instructor, reading week cannot come fast enough. Reading week allows me to catch up on emails, content creation, and marking. Students often ask me what I do during reading week. Do I actually read? Yes, I do! Here are three things I “read” during reading week.

Reading the Room

Reading week offers me the time to reassess my course and reconnect with my learners. I solicit anonymous feedback before reading week so that I have time to review the comments and make adjustments. The three questions I like to ask in the anonymous mid-course feedback are:

  • What elements in the class have helped your learning the most?
  • What elements in the class have hindered your learning?
  • What suggestions do you have to improve the course?

The three questions invite learners to reflect on their learning experience, and I create a summary of the feedback to show how the suggestions are being put into action. I notice that students often critique their own study habits in response to “what elements in the class have hindered your learning?” One method for addressing this question’s answers is to share study strategies at the beginning of the reading week.

Ideally, reading week provides learners with time to read, study, and rest. However, if I have struggled to stay on top of my work throughout the semester, one week will not change this reality. At the beginning of the reading week, I share productivity tips, and I offer individualized updates on where the learner is in the course. When work piles up, it is not easy to know where to start. Providing an updated checklist accompanied with a note of support reminds learners that we are available to have a conversation on how best to help them successfully finish the semester. I notice that many students respond to the individualized checklist with an update on their situation. Reading the room means not only reassessing the course content but also reviewing the needs of our learners.

Reading for Fun

When was the last time you read for fun? I like to read material beyond my research and teaching context to give my mind a break. Reading for fun opens the possibilities for putting a different spin on course content. Reading movie and TV captions count! Many students told me that they learned to pronounce and spell historical names and titles from watching and reading captions. Students are also eager to point out when historical dramas and novels get the facts wrong. My favourite moments are when students connect seemingly unrelated material such as Disney’s The Little Mermaid to early modern musical nuns. These connections pop up in class discussions and enrich engagement. More importantly, reading for fun allows us to explore our interests and develop into multi-faceted and curious learners.

Reading My Mood

By the time reading week rolls around, I am tired. Reading week is a time for me to check my mental and physical health status. I cannot support my learners when I am mentally and physically exhausted. I invite my students also to conduct a similar check during reading week. How am I feeling? What can I do to alleviate some of my ongoing anxiety? What can I change to reclaim my mental and physical space? Reading week is an opportunity to catch up on work and to catch up on self-care. Take a nap, take a walk, take a moment to breathe.

The reality is that reading week can be a difficult time. Both instructors and learners are overwhelmed with current and upcoming work and responsibilities. We miss interacting with family and friends. We miss our pillows even more. As instructors, reading week is an important time for us to support our learners by checking in with them and checking in with ourselves. I hope you all have a productive and restorative reading week ahead!

Works Cited

Sarah. (2018). How to Put the “Read” in Reading Week. Minute School. https://www.minuteschool.com/2018/02/how-to-put-the-read-in-reading-week/

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