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Introduction to the Coding Text Strategy

Sometimes readers stop paying attention or simply read the words without understanding the text. They may later say they don’t remember what they’ve read, but maybe they never really understood it. Reading is not simply about getting to the end of the page! We read to understand. A number of strategies have been proven effective in keeping a reader’s attention focused on understanding.

Coding text is one of these comprehension-monitoring strategies. By responding to and marking a piece of text, the reader stays focused on meaning. For example, the reader makes “notes” using symbols to identify important information or unfamiliar terms. The reader also may mark the text with a question mark when anything is confusing or unclear. These marks represent the reader’s thinking at that point in the text.

The instructor uses a four-stage process for introducing the strategy. Research has repeatedly proven that this kind of explicit instruction is effective. For adult learners, many of whom have experienced school failure, this kind of teaching may lead to success. Each of the four stages is demonstrated through a video clip.

INTRODUCTION

To introduce the strategy, the instructor explains why and how it is used and gives the learners a suggested “code” for marking the text. She also explains that she will speak her thoughts aloud as she demonstrates the coding strategy.

It’s often best to be explicit in teaching something new:

  • What are you going to teach?
  • Why is it important?
  • How are you going to teach it?

Modeling

Good teaching often requires more than explanation and direction. Instead of simply telling learners how to do something, you need to show them how it’s done. In this clip, the instructor shows the adults exactly how to use the strategy by providing a model for them. Using an overhead transparency, she reads and thinks aloud about a piece of text. She marks the text to reflect her thinking.

Guided Practice

Before asking learners to use the strategy independently, the instructor wants to see how well they have understood it. They may not ask questions, and may not be aware that they don’t “get it” until they try to use it.

Instead of taking the chance that they may become discouraged when using it independently, she first gives them an opportunity to practice the strategy with the support of a partner. She also pays attention to the learners’ work and provides assistance if they need it.

Independent Practice and Discussion

When the instructor feels confident that the learners know how to use the strategy, she asks them to practice independently. When they finish, they discuss their use of the strategy and some of the content they’ve learned from the text. This kind of discussion allows learners to share with each other and increase their comprehension through a form of cooperative learning.

This is an example of the use of reading instruction to build content-area knowledge. We read to understand, so what did we learn?