Do you have students who read a text and are clueless about what they read? Or when you prompt them to share what they learned from a text, they frantically look back at the last sentence they read and then spit it out verbatim?
Before we get into conversations about main ideas, author’s point of view, summarizing content and so forth, we may want to provide time for students to grapple with questions like:
- What did I understand or learn in this text (or section of text or even just this sentence)?
- What did I not understand?
- I didn’t understand this, so what can I do to figure it out?
I use the Coding Strategy (Hoyt, 2008) to introduce or reinforce self-monitoring with students. After each sentence or paragraph or section of text, students stop, think, and code the text with one of the following:
*I already knew this information.
+ This is new information.
? I don’t understand this part or I’m wondering about…
! Wow this is interesting and this is why I think so…
This is an image of the bookmark I give students. I’ve attached a PDF here. CODING BOOKMARK 11_12_15
Here’s an easy lesson procedure:
- Explain the skill and strategy. Self-monitoring means to keep track of what we are and are not understanding and then to use fix-up strategies to repair meaning. Then explain the strategy. When we code our thinking, this means we read, stop, think & jot a code and write a few notes.
- Model using the Coding Strategy to self-monitor. Read aloud from a text projected for all students to view and write aloud codes with notes about your thinking. When I introduce this strategy to students, I read aloud, think aloud, and write codes and notes – before the students did this on their own. See image below for a lesson I did with 5th grade students.
- Direct students to read a chunk of text and stop to write a code with a few notes on a sticky note.
- Ask students to talk with a partner about what they learned from the text as well as their codes and notes.
- Proceed in a similar fashion with additional chunks of the text, coaching students during individual conferences, and providing time to stop and talk with a partner.
- CLOSE – Students can end up with very fragmented thinking if they just code like crazy and don’t also think about how all of the details they are reading are related. During conferences and at the end, I pose questions that require synthesis like “So looking at all of your coded notes, what do you think the author’s purpose was for writing this text?” or “So what did you learn from reading the whole text that was important?” Ask the students to think across their coded notes. At the end, ask the students to place their notes in the middle of a sheet of paper and draw a frame around. Then ask them to write the main idea in the frame. For more information on the frame analogy for teaching main idea, see a recent blog entry I wrote.
Caution! Beware. Students will use all of your sticky notes, putting just a code on each, and then not be able to recall what they were thinking when they wrote that code. Make sure they jot a few words to help them remember what they were thinking at that point.
ALSO, when you model or confer with individuals, think aloud about parts of the text you did not understand (with a ? code) or that you might not understand if you were their age. Most students do not code for what they don’t understand – and need prompting to do that. I haven’t elaborated on this here – but you need to help them articulate what they can do to repair their meaning making. Have a list of strategies in your mental pocket for this.
If you want to read more about this including looking at sample lessons and a rubric for assessing students’ coding, check out Chapter 6 “Self-Monitoring While Reading” in my book Close Reading of Informational Texts or send your questions to me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope this helps.