A Before and After Close Paper Reading: Hydrogeology Edition


Students read an advanced paper at the beginning of a course and compile a list of terms they do not understand. As the course progresses, the instructor defines these terms. At the end of the course, students re-read the initial paper to gain an appreciation of how much they have learned.


  • Gauge each student’s background understanding of material coming into the course
  • Foster discussion and collaboration amongst students by generating a combined list of poorly understood terms
  • Ensure all students have basic fundamental understanding of course material as terms are defined
  • Demonstrate learning to the students at the end of the semester


Applied hydrogeology 


This activity was used in an advanced applied hydrogeology course but is widely applicable.  Students in courses learning field-specific jargon for the first time must typically learn an abundance of new, complex vocabulary without much guidance. This activity helps combat confusion by having students slowly build a repertoire of terms for use in the class as well as the field more generally.

Procedure - Before Class: 

The instructor chooses and appropriate paper for hte class type and level and distributes it to students. She explains her goals, then gives students time to read the article and compile a list of terms they cannot confidently define to a friend. 

Procedure - During Class:

Students form small groups and compare their lists of terms, which they individually generated. Then, the class reunites to make a master list. Discussion of this list is often lively. This list is revisited throughout the semester, and terms are checked off as they are defined. The instructor emphasizes when she is defining a list term. This list guides students through key topics and vocabulary and provides them a metric for measuring their understanding and progress during the semester. 

Procedure - After Class:

At the end of term, students revisit the original article to see how much they have learned. A group discussion is held to summarize the activity.


The most important material is the selected paper. The paper should be relevant to the course material, contain most of the key vocabulary terms of the subject area, address core methods of the subject area, and be of general interest to students. At the start of the semester, the instructor should review the syllabus with the selected paper to ensure that she covers all of the key terms, adjusting the syllabus or the paper as neccessary. 

This activity was submitted by Jennifer Cole.