PLAN: An Active Reading Strategy

PLAN allows students who may be visually inclined to record their readings in a map format. If you have tried SQ4R or another textbook reading strategy, but it didn’t quite click, then try adopting PLAN, a simple four-step program that allows you to place main concepts, definitions, people, places, and times into a physical representation and catalogue.

PLAN also forces you to imagine the information in your textbook before you approach the text, place information in the context of what you already know, and then search out any holes in your knowledge. PLAN is a useful strategy for those students who need to see the connections between ideas, and rewriting and reorganizing your notes has been proven to improve recall.

Step 1: Predict

Step one entails scanning your text and looking for the following information to make a “predictive map” of the text’s contents:

  • Bolded, italicized, or defined terms 
  • Key people, places, or time periods 
  • Charts, graphs, or any other visual representation of data
  • Headings, subheadings, or organizational titles 
  • Examples 
  • Summaries or study questions 

Using this information, you will draw a map of what you expect the chapter, article, or essay to discuss. Connect the ideas using lines or arrows, and remember to designate main ideas and smaller ideas. 

Step 2: Locate

After drawing your map, determine which information you already know, and which information you will have to find when you read the textbook more thoroughly.

  • Note missing information with a question mark, and note completed information with a checkmark. 
  • You can fill in information you already know during this step, or wait to compare with the textbook.

Step 3: Add

After reading the text, close your book and try answer the questions remaining in your prediction map. Try to include as much information as possible for each topic, but also try to determine which ideas were the most prominent or important in your reading.

Step 4: Note

After filling in your missing information, continue to develop and prepare the information. In other words, determine how you will use the information: will you have a multiple choice or essay exam, an assigned chapter summary, or a group presentation? 

  • Different assignments will require you to use the information differently, and Step 4 allows you to organize your notes into a summary paragraph, or to practice recreating your map from memory to prepare for a multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank exam. 
  • You may also decide that your predictive map was inaccurate; during step four you can reorganize the relation

Additional Ways to Apply PLAN

  1. Visit an Academic Coach: Your coach can help you organize your note taking, and you can do practice sessions to model effective note-taking with an Academic Coach!
  2. Quiz yourself using PLAN: Try to read one chapter without PLAN and one chapter with PLAN. Have a friend or Academic Coach quiz you on both chapters. You’ll be learning the material and seeing whether PLAN works for you!
  3. Modify the Steps
    1. Do Step 2 in your book margins and underline where everything is.
    2. Try reciting the material with a mnemonic or “memory house” strategy. Learn more about memorization strategies with your Academic Coach!