Literacy Enhancements

When students work with the Scan-Question-Read-Write-Review Strategy (influenced by Robinson, 1946) in small, collaborative, mixed ability groups, they will be immersed in learning the following ingredients of literacy: vocabulary, reading fluency, reading comprehension, listening comprehension, discussion fluency, writing fluency, and in addition, collaborative work skills.

Preparing Materials for Teaching

Teachers can select any expository reading material (text written to explain ideas) typically found within the following examples: books (chapter, picture, illustrated, or informational), newspapers, textbooks, magazine articles, brochures, catalogues, or any text online as long as it is expository. These reading materials usually contain illustrations with captions, lists of objectives, lists of vocabulary, lists of main ideas, summaries, headings, subheadings, and in addition to the main text, they will have smaller, insets of text in the margins of the pages with further, related information. Moreover, they typically have a table of contents in the front pages, and a glossary of vocabulary located in the ending pages. It is important for teachers make sure all students either have a print copy of the text or can access it online.

Teachers will need to create print or digital copies of selected chapters taken from whole-texts to use for modeling and guiding students through the processes of the strategy.

Note: Since students will be working in collaborative teams on this strategy, it is important for teachers to create and assign mixed ability teams ahead of time.

Instructional Delivery

Definition. Teachers tell students that the strategy of Scan-Question-Read-Write-Review (SQRWR) is a strategy that will help them learn how to quickly review (scan) a text for important information, to further analyze a text (question) for the main ideas, to formulate thoughts pertaining to a text (write), and to reflect back over a text to reexamine their learning (review).

Benefits. Teachers explain to students the purpose of the strategy is to improve their reading fluency, reading efficiency, to enhance their understanding of the main ideas contained in the texts they read, to foster critical thinking skills, and to generate reflective thoughts covering the main ideas in texts.

Academic Applications. Teachers inform students that they can apply the SQRWR Strategy anytime they need to either answer questions over subject area text written to explain ideas (nonfiction, expository text) or for studying in preparation for taking a quiz or test covering the subject area text (e.g., social studies, science, or math).

Modeling. Teachers explain to students that you are going to guide them through each step of the process of the SQRWR Strategy.

1. Scan-Teachers have students get into their preassigned teams and pass out to each student a paper copy of a chapter from a social studies or science textbook. Next, have students use their highlighters to highlight the parts of the text chapter as you show them how using a print copy of the chapter displayed with a document camera or a digital copy displayed with a computer. Have students highlight in different colors the following text features (as many as are contained in the text): the main title, all of the subtitles, captions to illustrations, and all text or illustrations in the margin areas around the main body of the text. Teachers inform students that expository text usually found in textbooks, typically includes these features and it is important to read them quickly or scan them before reading the main body of the text, because they include pertinent information that is needed for fully understanding the main ideas expressed in the chapter.

2. Question-Teachers have students write the ending questions to the chapter onto their papers leaving three to four blank lines under each question to have room for writing the answers. When all students have done this, then tell them to talk with their teammates in order to determine what QTAR each question could be and write this the QTAR question type under each quest (teachers: see QTAR in the References). Next, teachers have students talk with their teammates to determine the subject of each question and underline it.

3. Read-Teachers inform students to read the chapter silently.

4. Write-Teachers direct students to talk with their teammates for the sake of determining what the answers could be for each question and then write the answers onto their papers.

5. Review-Teachers explain to students that they can look back through the text and scan for the main subject (which they have previously underlined) of each question, in order to check their answers. Next, teachers instruct students to create an illustration of depicting something that was important to them that they learned from their reading of the chapter. Student examples could be a timeline, word map, concept map, a graph, chart, or a free-form graphic of their choosing.

Check for Understanding. Teachers walk around each team of students while they are working. Observe them closely to make sure they are following directions. Answer questions and give students immediate guidance as needed. Stop their work if a lot of students are confused and reteach the problem areas.

Teachers spend a week teaching the SQRWR Strategy keeping students working in mixed ability teams. Use copied chapters from social studies, science, and math textbooks or other books that have the text features identified in this article. When students demonstrate understanding, then teachers can assign Independent Practice.

Independent Practice. Teachers separate students from their teams for alone time, independently working with the SQRWR Strategy with new examples of copied, print copies of chapters taken from textbooks. When students have shown understanding with Independent Practice then teachers can assign Authentic Practice.

Authentic Practice. First, teachers put students back into their teams and assign them to work through the SQRWR Strategy with chapter assignments within, not copied from, their subject area textbooks (these could also be online textbooks). However, since now students are using real textbooks and not printed copies on separate paper, they cannot use their highlighting markers, but the act of highlighting the important features of the text will have ingrained within them what these features are and what role they play in their full understanding of the information covered within the textbook chapter.

Second, when students have demonstrated understanding with Authentic Practice within their teams, then teachers can move students away from their teams and assign the SQRWR Strategy for students to work on alone in conjunction with an assigned textbook chapter.

Evaluate. Teachers walk around students while they are working: watching, listening, and observing them closely. Write anecdotal notes to yourself about what you are noticing to be used for future plans for teaching. Teachers collect students' work to examine specifically for areas of student need, strengths, and weaknesses. Reflect over what instruction students require for success with the SQRWR Strategy, and then reteach the problem areas.

Assess. Teachers grade students' individual work only after they have demonstrated understanding and success with answering questions over textbook reading assignments using the SQRWR Strategy.

Students with Special Needs: Modifications, Adaptations, or Differentiation

Teachers, through evaluations of students' work, can determine those students who need more intensified instruction fashioned to fit their individual or collective needs. Some ideas for helping students with special needs are included as follows:

1. Use below current grade level textbooks
2. Use short chapters of selections of text
3. The teacher reads aloud the textbook chapter chorally with students more than once
4. The teacher instructs students in their team to read aloud the textbook chapter using shared reading strategies (teachers see Oral Reading References)
4. The teacher creates SQRWR Strategy worksheets

Closing Comments

Many times teachers at all levels of education ranging from K-12, struggle with HOW to actually help students read, study, and learn from expository text. The SQRWR Strategy makes this process very clear and literal for students to understand, apply, and to see how they can approach a textbook reading assignment with a strategy that has specific steps to follow that will enhance their learning engagement. In order for students to learn information while they are reading, they need to understand how to actively think as they are reading, in other words, they need to learn how to DO something with the text other than just reading it.


Robinson, F. P. (1946). Effective study. New York, NY: Harper and Brothers.

Weih, T. G. (2017). Reading comprehension: Question-text-answer-relationship (QTAR).

Weih, T. G. (2015). Oral reading fluency instruction for grades K-3.

Copyright © 2017 Timothy G. Weih, Ph.D.
University of Northern Iowa, USA

About Author / Additional Info:
Timothy G. Weih is an associate professor of education at the University of Northern Iowa, USA, and teaches elementary teaching methods courses.