In a writing class, the essay is almost always based upon class readings. So when students come into the writing center and ask why they need to mention the book, I usually ask them, “why do you think the instructor had you read the book?” and “How might the book help you write your essay?” these questions are usually followed by several beats of silence and deep thinking on the part of students.
When I was teaching writing at Sacramento State and Sac City College, I focused heavily on reading. I embedded modelling of how to read a text, created reading cohorts, did jigsawing, forced students to reflect on their reading process at the end of each paper they turned in. Their portfolio cover pages almost always had a nod to how often they re-visited a book or article, what type of notes they had to make to understand the readings.
Today, I tend to ask students who come into the center metacognitive questions about the reading for their class essay:
What part of the reading fits best into your intro paragraph? Why does that quote work as a hook and not the quote from your second body paragraph? So if a hook draws us in, how do you know that quote is hook worthy?
How did you come to choose this quote to back up your view that X is…..? How does this quote go back to your topic sentence?
What did you have to do to understand this article? Why did that reading strategy work for this novel? Did it work for the ted talk you watched on this topic? No? Why?
While I agree with some of what Wornock says about quizzing, I personally hate reading quizzes. One semester I asked students to create their own reading quiz questions based on some criteria I created. Then after they wrote them on the board, we revised the questions together and tightened up the “quiz” and each group gave their reading quiz question to another group. It was fun and it worked because in order to ask a really good, nuanced question meant they had to open their book and skim the reading again, think about how they would answer the question in order to write a good quality quiz question that made the reader think. I imagine it could be used in an online class.
But back to the meta questions. I think students need more practice reading and using meta questions as they read. They can create those questions both about their reading process and the content of the reading itself.