Strategy 6: Marking the Text

(during reading)


This strategy is described in I Read It, But I Don’t Get It: Comprehension Strategies for Adolescent Readers, by Cris Tovani (Stenhouse Publishers, 2000).


Teach students the following strategy early in the year: Using sticky notes, mark places in the text where you see a connection to something you already know – use the code BK for Background Knowledge. Explain the connection you see, possibly starting with “This reminds me of…”

Also mark places in the lesson where you have questions. Use a ? as the code. Then write the question, perhaps starting with “I wonder…”

A third, important code is a C for conclusion, connection or inference. When an important learning occurs to you from the reading, mark it with a C and explain what you think it is. Your explanation could start with “I think that…”

It is important to introduce just one code at a time, and wait until students become good with each code before introducing the next one. Start this strategy early in the year so it becomes a habit with students.


When you teach this strategy to students, model the coding process for them on a small piece of text, perhaps the first page from a chapter. Project the reading through an overhead or document camera. As you read through the first paragraph or two, talk out loud about what you’re thinking as you read, and explain how you would mark the text.

Then let students try it with the rest of this short text. Give them feedback as needed. (See the explanation of explicit instruction from the IES Practice Guide.)


This strategy helps students stay engaged in their reading and remember what they read. It draws on several significant reading strategies (connecting to prior knowledge, making inferences, asking questions). The notes become good material for studying or writing assignments. It can help students develop better summaries (see Strategy 10: Summarize).

For this and all of the other ideas in the toolkit, it's always a good idea to point out why you are asking your students to use these strategies: to improve their reading comprehension (not to torture them!)

Assignment: Follow the instructions above to teach this strategy explicitly (model it, then give feedback to students as they try it themselves.) Use the handout from Tovani, page 136. After students have used it several times, ask them to write a short reflection piece about how using this strategy helps them understand and remember what they read. Then post one of their reflections on the discussion tab for this page (copy and paste it if they submit their writing to you on the computer, or type it in if they handwrite it).