Using Reading Prompts to Promote Students’ Academic Reading

Pete Watkins

As the semester winds down, I know that many of us (including me) are buried in grading.  However, before you leave for winter break, we would like to share with you a tip for next semester about using reading prompts to help ensure that your students are getting the most out of assigned readings. 

This teaching tip comes from Zeenar Salim of Aga Khan University.  If you are looking for more information on how to use reading prompts in your course contact the CAT or your institution’s teaching center. 

Happy Holidays!


Using Reading Prompts to Promote Students’ Academic Reading

Do you have concerns around students attending classes without pre-reading? Ever wondered how you can make them read? Students in higher education are expected to comprehend the text, connect their prior experiences with the text, evaluate the text, and consider alternative viewpoints to the text. Reading prompts are considered a way to motivate students to read. They improve students’ comprehension and critical thinking skills by engaging them actively with the reading material.

Provision of reading cues/prompts helps the learners to actively read and analyse their own thoughts during and after reading to expand, clarify or modify their existing thinking about the concepts or ideas at hand. The reading prompts can be categorized into six categories a) identification of a problem or issue b) making connections c) interpretation of evidence d) challenging assumptions e) making applications, and f) taking a different point of view. Sample questions for each category are as follows:

  • What is the key issue/concept explained in the article? What are the complexities of the issue? (Identification of problem or issue)
  • How is what you are reading different from your prior knowledge around the issue/topic? (Making connections)
  • What inferences can you draw from the evidence presented in the reading? (Interpretation of evidence)
  • If you got a chance to meet the author, what are the key questions that you would ask the author? (Challenging assumptions).
  • What are the lessons that you have drawn for your practice from this reading? (Application)
  • Write a letter to your friend who has no expertise in this subject area, explaining the theoretical concept presented in the article. (Taking a different point of view)

Generally, students are asked to complete the reading prompts before the next class by writing a paragraph-long response to each question. The instructor may choose questions depending upon the learning objectives of the session and may adapt the question(s) to gauge specific information around the text. For sample questions and detailed literature around reading prompts, please read Tomasek (2009).



Tomasek, T. (January 01, 2009). Critical Reading: Using Reading Prompts to Promote Active Engagement with Text. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Retrieved from



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