Tag Archives: self-selected reading

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Try “Say Something” for Comprehension in Any Subject

One of the problems I’ve noticed when working with adolescent readers is that many of them do not monitor comprehension. I often ask them if they have had the experience of BMS (Blank Mind Syndrome) after they have read a paragraph, page, or chapter of a text. Almost universally, they all say they have. I have too. Oftentimes, this can stem from a lack of monitoring.

Monitoring comprehension is simply “checking in with yourself” as you read. Readers who monitor well generally stop periodically to ask themselves questions about what they have read, make connections to their experiences, or realize when they experience Blank Mind Syndrome and try re-reading. Those that check in often can realize they are confused after a few paragraphs rather than a few chapters. What a time-saver!

Many students learned about these monitoring comprehension strategies as elementary students. However, I’ve noticed that, as secondary students, several do not actively use them when reading becomes difficult. This phenomenon is as true for striving readers as it is for Advanced Placement students. If the text is simple for the individual student, he or she cruises along happily because he or she is seemingly involuntarily monitoring. It’s just what we all do when texts are easier. But, once students encounter more complex texts, it is essential that they monitor comprehension intentionally. Many don’t. This leads to reading without comprehending or simply stopping the reading process.

One of my favorite strategies for having students practice monitoring comprehension is Say Something. I first learned about Say Something in Kylene Beers’ awesome book When Kids Can’t Read — What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers 6-12. If you have never read the book, it is a resource I turn to frequently — even several years after reading it the first time. You must check it out some time.

Here is the gist of Say Something.

Essentially, students read text with a partner, stopping periodically to make predictions, clarify unclear information, ask questions, make comments, and make connections. Students enjoy the social aspect of the strategy, and most report that they “actually understood it” when they use it. When they cannot do one of the five things I mentioned when they stop, they must re-read, focusing on trying to use one of the strategies intentionally. Once they begin using the strategy, I have noticed students utilize their background knowledge in these conversations with one another to better understand the text, explicitly making connections and points that I would never think to suggest. It is truly powerful. It is imperative, though, to explicitly link the conversation students have during Say Something, to the internal conversations they should be having when they read independently. This can best be done through giving students opportunities to use the question stems from Say Something while they read independently. They can share their thinking in this way through short annotations.

One of the latest ways I’ve been experimenting with Say Something is adapting it based upon disciplinary literacies. Different from general content-area reading strategies, disciplinary literacies are ways of thinking that must be utilized to become proficient in different fields. So, as I am reading a social studies text, I may need to monitor differently (perhaps thinking about the context of time period when reading a primary document) from when I read a science text (reading to understand complex multi-step procedures).  If you would like to learn more about disciplinary literacies, check out

Through a collaboration with a math teacher, I have developed a Mathematics-Focused Say Something for students to use as they are reading the investigations in their math textbooks. It is still in the development phase, so please feel free to offer input.

In addition, I would like to develop subject-specific Say Somethings for as many areas as possible, so I welcome your explanations of the type of thinking students need for reading in your discipline in the comments area.

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How QR Codes Support Teaching and Learning

A QR (Quick Response) code is a special type of barcode than can hold more information than traditional UPC barcodes. With a QR code reader app, information can be retrieved and displayed quickly using the camera on a smartphone or a tablet device. Most QR readers can also create QR codes. These barcodes can connect to web URL’s, text documents, e-mail addresses, and other information.

Information Stations

Are there certain areas of your space where it would be convenient for students to regularly access information? Consider creating QR codes that allow students to easily retrieve important information. For example, in a weight training class, a teacher could post QR codes at each piece of exercise equipment. The featured poster links to videos that show proper form for chest exercises.

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Differentiated Skills Groups Oftentimes, we need to differentiate instruction for varying student needs, but we are unsure of how to accomplish the task. QR codes can be linked to different online tasks that develop students’ skills. Teachers can assign students to scan a particular QR code, or students can self-assess and choose for themselves. The codes pictured were created after students had completed writing drafts. The teacher identified three areas for different groups of students to develop: parallel structure, subject-verb agreement, and correct use of apostrophes.  The QR codes link to related activities at chompchomp.com.

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Promoting Self-Selected Reading Connecting students with books that meet their interests is a vital for creating motivated independent readers. Online book trailers are an engaging way to convey information about books in the 21st century. Create a display of books with QR codes to initiate a visual “booktalk” that students can access on demand. The photo below is a book display created by Samantha Gallman (@hav2laugh), the media coordinator in one of the schools I serve.

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Group “Scavenger Hunts” QR codes are a great tool for classroom scavenger hunts. First, teachers can determine the types of information they want students to explore. Then, they can search for websites, videos, maps, and documents that support students learning the information. The pictured scavenger hunt had earth and environmental science students explore the effects of pollution in regards to ocean acidification, the greenhouse effect, and other aspects of climate change.

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Reading Scaffolds Teachers can create reading scaffolds for students with QR codes.  For example, QR codes can be attached to a text’s margins. When 9th grade students read “The Sniper,” I created QR codes that linked to background information, pictures, and YouTube videos that would support and enrich their reading experience.

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Create Your Own QR Reader and Qrafter are free QR Code apps that can create QR codes. You can also create your own QR codes on your desktop or laptop using The QR Code Generator. Please use the comments section below to share ideas about how you are using QR codes to support learning in your schools.