Often students read fluently but do not fully understand what they are reading. As children enter upper elementary, the focus shifts from decoding and trying to figure out words to attempting to understand the meaning of text. Most students need strategies throughout their schooling to assist them in comprehending what they read. In this blog and the accompanying video lesson, I will outline one simple strategy that can be used with students at home or in school. Even struggling students tend to enjoy this strategy as it can be modified to fit what the student is currently able to do. I was first exposed to this strategy as a middle school teacher, but it can be used with upper elementary or even high school students. All you need to try the strategy are sticky notes and a fiction or nonfiction story.

This strategy is based on the common reading strategy of annotation but is more accessible for younger students and those who may struggle to comprehend. Annotation requires the student to come up with content to write in response to a passage. Although older students do eventually need to get to this point, younger students or those who are struggling often need a scaffolding strategy to build up to being able to annotate text. This form of annotation provides prompts allowing the student to begin interacting with the text and modeling the thought process necessary to be able to successfully use annotation independently in the future.

Setting Up the Strategy

The teacher can list a variety of before, during, and after reading questions on post-its for students to select and use or the questions can be listed on the board or a handout for students to copy onto their own post-its. If the teacher or parent is using a digital book, it may be possible to pre-fill out post-its as we demonstrate in the video. As students become more familiar with this process, they may be able to brainstorm their own before, during, and after reading prompts and questions as a class or individually. The teacher or parent can stick the post-it notes with questions throughout the story or it is also possible to use different colors for before, during, and after reading questions and have students select sticky notes with questions to use at different points in their reading. For question ideas, see this excellent article on this topic by Judy Willis for Edutopia.

How to Use the Strategy While Reading

Before reading, the student previews the text by looking at the headings, pictures, important vocabulary, captions, and first and last paragraph. Using this information, they answer the before reading questions and focus on making predictions about the content of the text. The student may also write down questions they hope to find the answer to while reading. Once they start reading, they focus on their “during reading questions”. These questions are related to reading comprehension skills like summarizing, making connections, asking and answering questions, locating important details, and drawing inferences and conclusions. When they are finished, students focus on their “after reading” questions which ask them about what they learned, what they did not find in the passage that they still want to know, or about the main idea or author’s purpose. Interacting with the text in this way helps students to stay engaged and move beyond just reading the words to actually draw meaning from the text. 

Changing and Modifying the Strategy as Students Learn and Grow

Once students have used this strategy, they may be ready to begin generating their own questions. At first, teachers can use symbols like a question mark for questions, lightbulb for ideas, arrows for connections, or star for summary to help give students categories and guide their thinking. Eventually, students will be ready to annotate and interact with the text on their own. This will help them to not only be more focused and active readers, but will also prepare them to more effectively answer questions and write written responses after they have read.

For more ideas on learning strategies, visit our blog. If you would like to see more of our lessons, we have engaging online summer sessions for reading and writing coming up soon. Find out more here.

~Nina

Click below to watch a short reading lesson that is appropriate for students in 3rd grade and up:

Nina Parrish, M. Ed.

Nina Parrish, M. Ed.

Co-Owner and Director of Education

Proud mom of two adorable girls. Teacher who has developed an education business that started at a kitchen table and has grown into a thriving small business... Click here to Learn more about Nina.

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