Digging for Deeper Meaning

Do your students struggle with "stretch texts"? Need help in knowing how to scaffold the learning to avoid frustration? Check out this post to learn a few tips.

Do your students struggle with stretched texts? These are texts that are beyond your readers. Stretching them doesn't have to mean frustrating them.  With scaffolding, we can walk kids through texts that are slightly beyond them. Stretch texts are texts that are a half a year to a year above there current reading level, and for many of our struggling readers, this could simply include working with grade level texts. The key is scaffolding your instruction, but how? Today, I'd like to share with you a few ways that you can help your kids tackle texts that are beyond them without having them shut down or break down in tears.

Keep a Growth Mindset

Having a growth mindset is important in this scenario in particular.  Intelligence and talent can change with hard work in using comprehension skills and strategies and continued effort even when the work is hard. As we work with students, it's important to provide useful feedback and suggestions for improvement and reassure our students that if they aren't proficient with a text the first time, that they'll get it if they continue working hard.

It is important to show our readers their growth.  Focus on where students started and where they've gone. If they can physically SEE they're improving, they will be more motivated to push on versus give up. You can do this by charting their test scores or better yet, make a concept grid that they can color in as they demonstrate mastery of the concept.

Monitor Text Levels

Remember that a stretch text is slightly above the students' instructional level. If you push too high, you will get shut down. Check that the topic is of interest to the student and build schema prior to tackling it. By doing this, the students will be better able to access the meaning of the content.

Preteach Challenging Vocabulary

What makes texts challenging? The answer to this is the text level and text vocabulary. If we make students familiar with the challenging vocabulary, it will improve their ability to understand. As you teach the vocabulary, also teach how the words are connected to the rest of the text. Demonstrate context clues and anaphoric relationships. This is when one word replaces another word within the text. Show your students noun replacements, verb replacements, and clause replacements to make meaning clear. If students can watch for these connections, they will be able to better use these clues to figure out meaning.

Tackle Texts Together with Think Aloud  

Model, Model, Model! Our students need to see how to break down and think about texts before they can tackle the texts independently. Start with short articles that you can project. Read through the text once to get the gist first. Then, reread with pauses for discussing key point. Show your students how to mark the text in the margins, but have a hard copy with sticky notes on hand that you can demonstrate how good readers take notes. Finally, once you've broken down the text, have your students take over with text dependent questions that require them to use text information. 

Practice the Process

As you work with texts, use a common process to help scaffold your students' routines. Discuss the connections students can make to the readings as well as the process. With my students, I use the acronym PROOF to find the proof in our reading.

P: Preview and Prepare...Students look for clues as well as work with vocabulary
R-Read...Read to get the gist. Record important information.
O-Outline and Underline...Reread and mark the text with a pencil. Take notes in the margins.
O-Organize your thinking...Check questions for the information needed to accurately respond.
F-Flag the evidence and highlight it...Student confirms answer is correct.

To help my students with the process, I used this anchor chart to guide our lessons with stretch texts. 

I think the most important teaching strategy is talk. If we get kids to talk about their reading, we can work out the confusions. As we listen to our students work through texts, we can clarify for them when disconnect happens. 

What do you do to support your kids with challenging texts? Please share. I love learning too!


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Do your students struggle with "stretch texts"? Need help in knowing how to scaffold the learning to avoid frustration? Check out this post to learn a few tips.


4 comments

  1. Great post! Thanks so much for sharing it.

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    Replies
    1. Ah...thank you! It's one I started about six months ago and just finished it up! Hope you got a few ideas.

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  2. This is fantastic! I can't wait to share this! Thanks, Carla.

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