Lesson Planning Ideas for Digital Texts

Share this Teaching Tip
Reading Time: 5 minutes

The following suggestions were compiled by faculty participants in the 2019 workshop “Bringing eTexts to Life”. 

Brain Dump

At the beginning of the course, ask learners to form groups and record everything they already know on slips of paper or in a collaborative brainstorming app like Padlet.

schema mapping using sticky notes
Photo by You X Ventures on Unsplash

Make sure they have time to organize like concepts. Consider asking prompting questions like:

  • What areas does your group seem to have strong knowledge base in?
  • What areas have some gaps?
  • How does your brain dump compare to the organization of the table of contents and/or our instructional plan?
  • (Independently) What do you expect to be your own strengths and areas of need in this course? How will you support your own learning?

Revisit the brain dump exercises before midterms or exams, asking students to continue to add to it, and check in with the key strengths and needs they identified.

KWL Chart

Use a KWL Chart to have learners set out what they already Know before reading, and what they Want to Know but the end of it. Once they’re done reading, they fill out what they have Learned. A KWL chart helps activate, guide and consolidate existing and new knowledge.

Schema Mapping

Similar to a KWL Chart, a Schema map helps establish prior knowledge and monitor learning over time. This can be done as a whole class or in groups of up to four learners. Prior to a new unit, introduce the topic, and ask students to collect everything they think they know on the topic onto sticky notes or a Padlet. Accept all submissions, even if you know them to be incorrect.

large wall of sticky notes organized by colour and topic.
Photo by Hugo Rocha on Unsplash

Over the course of the unit, have learners continue to collect new learning from the text onto sticky notes or the Padlet, on a different colour. Begin collecting these under topic headings like New Learning and Misconceptions, or other headings as appropriate. Add to the original sticky notes when the topics are related. Move misconceptions to that heading, and ask learners to identify how they now know this is a misconception.

Map out Key Terms

Collect vocabulary in a collaborative group brainstorm, or do a word cloud using a polling app. Allow students to use translation tools in the text or online to understand the new key terms more deeply.

Mind Map Guidelines” by Nicoguaro on Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved October 23rd, 2019.

Enhance the concept map of the terms by asking students to group related terms. Connect these terms to previously learned concepts. Refer to the concept map throughout the unit or semester, as a bridge and to activate students’ prior learning. 

Create small team activities to more deeply define key terms that are lesser known or more complex. Ask groups to share their definitions, explanations and examples with the class. Pose questions to the audience such as:

“Consider the similarities or differences between your own definition, and the one shared by this group. What do you notice?”

A QQC Journal

A Quote, Question and Comment Journal is a running log of a learner’s reading. It requires them to pose a Question they have about the reading, extract a Quote, and write a Comment (~100 words), attempting to answer the question. It involves an active accounting of reading tasks, and some reflection and consideration of a reading. Typically, a QQC journal would be used through the duration of a course, as a reading monitor.

QQC Journal. Click to get a downloadable copy.

Allocate time at the beginning of some classes for learners to compare their QQC journals, using their questions to discuss the reading. Adapt this template to suit your own teaching context, perhaps adding columns for pronunciation guides or other learning supports.

Compare Habits

T Chart template. Click image to get a downloadable copy.

Create a paired activity so learners can share ideas on effective highlighting and study strategies. Ask students to compare their own study habits with a partner. They can share their highlighted chapters to their partner. Ask them to compare strategies for annotating and searching within the text. As pairs, students can create a T-chart comparing efficient strategies (like selective highlighting, using notes to pose questions, copying and pasting highlights into a document, then summarizing them) to inefficient strategies (like highlighting too much, using too many or too few notes).


Use discussion activities or boards to have learners engage with the text. Support learners learning how to engage in productive discussion, active listening and appropriate group behaviour activity. Provide guiding open-ended questions. Support them as they learn to post to discussion boards, as many learners, especially international, may have never used one before.

Discussions might discuss: 

  • a list of terms that were unfamiliar before reading, with an explanation of these derived from their reading; 
  • questions they have before the reading, and some responses to other learners’ questions;
  • three key concepts from each unit, and why they matter, with links to the pages they appear on; 
  • a paragraph that summarizes their highlights, notes, or key takeaways; 
  • debates on the value/nature/relevance of some topics, as appropriate;
  • reflects on how their study habits have advanced, through adopting new reading habits.

Post comments and responses to their posts, engaging learners in active discussion about the concepts in their readings.

Group Glossary 

Have groups of students locate definitions for key terms within the text and pull them together into a collaborative doc, making a working glossary. This could be assigned by chapter, by section, or as a cumulative review. 

Ongoing Chapter Summaries

After reading a chapter, have students copy and paste their notes and highlights into a Word document, and actively and purposefully summarize the chapter. The summary should include little to no replication from the text, except key terms. Have them post their summaries to a discussion board, and continue to add to the same document throughout the course.  At the end of the course, they will have an effective study and review document. This would be in place of a QQC journal. 

Collaborative Reading 

Use the Jigsaw method, a popular active learning strategy, to prompt learners to re-engage with key concept areas by re-reading sections of the text, and sharing deeper insights.

“The Jigsaw Method” by Cult of Pedagogy, 2015. Retrieved Sept 10th, 2019.  

Before the lesson, choose 3 to 4 selections of the textbook with particularly high learning value. Form learners into mixed groups of 3 to 4 students, and each student in a group should choose one of the selections, re-reading it quietly to themselves. Then, ask students to convene a group with other students who read the same article as they did – this is the expert group. Provide some guiding questions for the expert group to discuss about the reading selection. Finally, they return to their original group, and report a summary of the reading selection, and share the expert groups’ key learning or discussion points. This is a variation of a Jigsaw method. 


Iwai, Y. (2016). The Effect of Explicit Instruction on Strategic Reading in a Literacy Methods Course. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education28(1), 110–118.

Jess Wilkinson

Jesslyn is the Educational Technology Officer at Conestoga. An Ontario Certified Teacher, and holding a B.A. and B.Ed., Jesslyn researches and promotes new technologies for faculty to enhance pedagogical practices. She brings to the role her experience as a Google and Microsoft certified technology trainer and as a classroom teacher in South Korea, Mongolia, and Ontario, focusing on special education and assistive learning technologies. She is available for workshops, consultations, and support with using technology in higher education contexts.

1 Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment