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During Reading

Read with Purpose

Telling students to simply underline “the important stuff” is too vague. Underline and Circle needs to direct the students to underline and circle very specific things.  Think about the information you want students to take from the text, and ask them to look for those elements. Circling specific items are an effective close reading strategy might include key terms, names of sources, power verbs, or figurative language.  Providing students with a specific thing you want them to underline or circle will focus their attention on that area much better than “underlining important information”.


A form of commenting in smaller fragments to help students understand text dependent material.  This is accomplished in the forms of:

  • Post It Notes
    • The teacher gives students a limited number of Post-its prior to assigning a text passage.  As the students perform their first reading of a short portion of the passage, they place Post-its by key vocabulary, concepts, or information.  After completing the first reading of the passage, the students write questions on the Post-its about the words, concepts, or pieces of information regarding the sections they marked.  The teacher then can utilize a number of sub-strategies: students can use their completed Post-its to question each other (pairs), with responders finding answers in the text; the teacher can collect Post-its from students and use them to question the entire class; or the teacher can have students popcorn questions to other students in the room. This portion of the lesson can be customized in many different ways.
  • Writing in the margins, which can be broken down into left margin annotation which summarizes the main idea of that chunk, or right margin annotation where students dig deeper by using questions, defining vocabulary, drawing illustrations.

When students annotate as they read, it keeps them focused and engaged with the text. It makes comprehension more conscious and intentional, which is especially useful for difficult text.


  1. Model annotation using think-alouds. Focus on unfamiliar vocabulary, confusing parts of the text, connections, etc.  Underline, highlight, use Post-its, and/or write notes in margins.
  2. Give instructions for student reading and annotation. As you read this article, I want you to do what I’ve just demonstrated. First, underline information that is important, surprising, interesting, or thought provoking. Then, before continuing to read, stop and jot down a sentence or two that explains why you chose that bit to underline. The goal is to explain your thoughts, opinions, or questions. Try to imagine that you are having a conversation with the text inside your head. Your notes are your side of the conversation.
  3. Pair-share Students should compare what they annotated and their thoughts connected to those underlines.
  4. Whole class share/discussion.

Text Coding

This can go along nicely with text annotation; it’s a quick way to make notes using simple symbols in the margins in reaction to text. Adding coding to underlining, circling, and marginal notes (text annotation) can create a robust way of excavating meaning from a text, marking it up to open it up. Adding coding can kick comprehension up another notch.


  1. Introduce codes - Provide student handouts or a poster and explain each code.
  2. Demonstrate coding - Use the first part of the text (think aloud/model) - also show how you write a word or two to help you remember what the code means.
  3. Kids try coding - Students try it with the rest of the article. Have them find at least three places to put a code.
  4. Pair Share - Partners discuss codes they used and where they were placed.
  5. Whole class share - Can extend by asking, “Did anyone have a reaction or some thinking there was no code for?  What new codes should we create?”


The sequence used in SQ3R is intended to echo the behavior of effective readers. As students survey the material before reading, they predict what the material will be about, what prior knowledge will be relevant, and which strategies will be useful in approaching the new text. They formulate questions in anticipation of the content they are about to encounter. The students’ prior knowledge and use of reading strategies assist them in constructing meaning of the content area text. However, their comprehension does not necessarily lead to learning that is meaningful and useful. Learning takes place when the new information becomes an interactive part of existing knowledge. Therefore, they recite answers to their own questions and make notes for later use. They then review the text, rereading for details and to clarify questions that remain unanswered. (Taken from p. 94 in Improving Adolescent Literacy: Content Area Strategies at Work.)

SQ3R Close Reading Strategy
S  Survey Skim text for headings, charts, bold words, italicized words, and pictures. With remaining time, begin reading the text with your pencil down.
Q  Question Turn headings into questions.
R  Read Read to answer your questions (in your mind).
R  Recite Answer questions and make notes in the margins, on post-its, or in your notebook. (The “reciting” happens when you share with a partner or it happens in your mind, as you silently or quietly rehearse the answers to the questions.)
R  Review Reread for details and unanswered questions.


See Close Reading in Action Videos.