Accessing Challenging Text (with bookmark!)

I still remember staring at my organic chemistry book with sandy, tired eyes, trying to make sense of the words on the page.  I thought of myself as an excellent reader throughout school, but I wasn’t prepared for texts that would truly challenge me.  I might have had the skills to deal with the text, but I didn’t have the metacognitive awareness to recognize when those skills were necessary.

Students face those same challenges.  And, as I mentioned in my previous blog post, with Common Core standards, students may increasingly be required to read difficult text.  But how do we scaffold those texts, helping students practice metacognitive awareness and begin to appropriate the required skills?

Click here for a bookmark I give students, based on WestEd’s idea of “clarifying bookmarks” and Chris Tovani’s ideas about teaching students to monitor comprehension.


Students can be prompted to stop periodically while reading and use the bookmark to annotate the text or make a comment to a reading partner.  Alternatively, the bookmark can be used with a simple chart like this one.

Students should be trained to identify what they are feeling or thinking, as described in the left-hand column, and then shown how to use the right-hand column to determine an appropriate strategy to use.  This can take lots of modeling.  Giving students a really challenging text to start with helps- that way you don’t hear a chorus of, “But I understand everything!”  Over time, using a technique like this can help students feel like they can master scary texts.

So, would this bookmark have helped me with my chemistry textbook?  More on that later.


Literacy Coach for New Tech Network

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Posted in Teaching Challenging Texts

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