Tracking Our Thinking


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My grandsons and I followed the deer tracks in the forest near their house. The creatures were long gone, but we could easily spot each step they had taken by the impression they had left behind in the damp soil. In a similar way, we can revisit the impressions a text has made on us if we leave tracks of our thinking as we read.

Reading is all about making meaning, so being conscious about our thinking as we read is essential to comprehension. Students of all ages can do this by tuning in to their inner voices as they read. One way we have them practice is by stopping, thinking, and responding to text by recording the questions, inferences, predictions, and connections they make as they read. By interacting with a text this way, students become keenly aware of multiple reading strategies they use. They can keep track of how new information in a text confirms, challenges, or changes their thinking.

There are many ways to keep track of our thinking.

Sticky Notes

Underlining and Margin Notes

Graphic Organizers

Reading Response Journals

Then there’s what Gail and I saw in Kim Patrick’s class: footprints. 

Kim’s third graders record their questions, connections, and aha moments on paper footprints and then hang them up around the room. There are now tracks of their thinking everywhere. These notes generate authentic conversations in their reading community that are exciting to witness. (The first one made me laugh: “Why is the third little pig smarter than the first and second little pigs?”)

We want our students to be thoughtful learners who are aware of their own thinking. So, let’s help them by showing how to hear that inner voice and keep track of what it has to say. Want to know more? The following books can help:

Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters 

            by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst

Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading

            by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst

Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts—and Life

            by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts

Mosaic of Thought: The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction, 2nd Edition

            by Elin Oliver Keene, Susan Zimmerman, and Thomas Newkirk

I Read It, but I Don’t Get It: Comprehension Strategies for Adolescent Readers

            by Cris Tovani

The Art of Teaching Reading

            by Lucy Calkins

Reading with Meaning: Teaching Comprehension in the Primary Grades

            by Debbie Miller

Reading Essentials: The Specifics You Need to Teach Reading Well

            by Regie Routman

The Comprehension Toolkit: Language and Lessons for Active Literacy, Grades 3–6

            by Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis

Check out this Prezi presentation where J Wheeler shows students how to listen to their inner voice.






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