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Be Your Own Guide

Recall visits to a museum, an art gallery, a national park, or a historical site when you have been escorted through a guided tour. A guided tour presents a visitor with a knowledgeable introduction to what is being viewed.

The tour helps you focus on what is interesting or important, offers you insight into the exhibit or experience that helps you appreciate it more, and provides a framework for understanding what you encounter.

In contrast, unless you are already quite knowledgeable, you will probably miss some significant elements of the experience if you wander about by yourself.

This is also true of students struggling to make sense of textbook readings in their classes. A “chapter tour” can provide them with enough direction and background so they can learn what’s important in their reading.

Teaching/Learning Activities

A Chapter Tour is a form of study guide that “talks” the reader through a chapter, and points out elements of the text that warrant special attention. Using a Chapter Tour activity involves the following steps:

Step 1: Preview a typical textbook chapter to identify salient features that you might overlook during your reading. Many textbooks today present information in a variety of visual formats in addition to print, and offer numerous study aids that highlight what is important in the chapter.

Yet unless attention is specifically called to these text features, students often skip over them as they read to complete an assignment. As part of this process, make special notice of ways the chapter forecasts organizational structure (i.e. cause/effect, compare/contrast, concept/definition, problem/solution, and so on) and how it signals key concepts and ideas.

Step 2: Create a Chapter Tour that guides toward noticing these features as you use the book. For example, students reading a U.S. history textbook can easily become immersed in the details of a section and miss major themes or ideas. A Chapter Tour of their book can you focus on changes and problems, two concepts that predominate in history.

Step 3: Complete your first Chapter Tour as an introduction to the textbook. One effective way of using a Chapter Tour is to work with partners so you can verbalize what you are discovering about the way this specific textbook works.

Step 4: Develop variations of your Chapter Tour for subsequent chapters, both to remind critical elements of the text and to include additional aspects that you want to pay attention to. Eventually, you can create your own chapter tours that show your understanding of key ideas.


A Chapter Tour can help you successfully cope with textbooks in the following respects:

  • You are provided with an “expert guide” to alert you what is most important in a chapter.
  • You are encouraged to look at the chapter to see the “big picture” first before tackling the individual details.
  • You will make more systematic use of reader aids provided within a chapter.