Strategy Anticipation Guides

Anticipation guides allow students to contemplate their knowledge, beliefs, and experiences about concepts, skills, or strategy application before a unit begins. Students can open their “prior knowledge” files in order connect new learning to their existing schema. Through instruction, knowledge and skills can be revised, reorganized and enhanced. 

“What students already know about a topic may be jumbled, disorganized, and incomplete — and sometimes it can be plain wrong. Anticipation guides…are designed to determine what students know, and are especially effective when they hone in on common misconceptions” (Fisher, Frey & Hattie, 2016).  It is difficult to determine what students bring to the learning without some sort of intentional evidence gathering. In addition to providing some of this needed evidence, “prediction and anticipation guides provide frontloading in preparation to connect new learning” (Buehl, 2017). “As an added advantage, such activities give students clues about what’s coming next and that helps them set a purpose for learning, an important aspect of motivation” (Lent, 2012).

In Strategic Reading (secondary intervention), our comprehension standards are focused on building metacognitive processes needed to make sense of a text.  Our anticipation guides provide opportunities for students to consider how they think about their thinking and provide teachers with evidence of the students understanding, or lack of understanding, in preparation for strategy instruction.    

Our comprehension standards include:  

Activate prior knowledge specific to the text to determine a purpose for reading. Use text and text features to develop logical predictions. Monitor the accuracy of the predictions, analyze textual evidence to adjust.

Generate implicit and explicit questions for a variety of purposes (predict, clarify, wonder); seek answers to questions to deepen comprehension.

Detect signs of confusion, diagnose causes of the confusion & determine effective reading strategies to resolve confusion and improve comprehension.

Read closely to determine essential details to analyze the author’s important ideas and intended themes; synthesize information in a logical structure that maintains the author’s intended meaning.

Following each unit, we find that revisiting the unit anticipation guides allows students to reflect on their own development as a result of their new learning. Opportunities for students to self-assess and self-reflect are considered highly impactful on student motivation and growth (Fisher, Frey & Hattie, 2016).   

Click on the image to follow the link to the anticipation guides we developed for our Strategic Reading comprehension standards. 

3 Stages of Good Reading

One of the challenges of teaching students to use strategies for making meaning of a text is helping them synthesize a series strategies into a logical process for previewing, making meaning, summarizing and reacting to the author’s message or argument.   We developed this Three Stages of the Good Reading guide as one option to help students practice the steps start-to-finish when they process a new piece of text for general meaning, clarifying confusion, activating schema, identify the author’s main ideas/arguments, etc.

Use of this guide requires some scaffolding through explicit instruction (mini-lessons in a workshop model, for example), but those lessons can follow students’ initial attempts at the process.  Through this, teachers can collect student evidence to inform instruction.  Once students are proficient in the process, and they can apply it to a variety of text types with increasing levels of complexity,  these steps can be applied authentically to text or be more of an internal mental process.  However, as it is initially taught and guided, this is a method intended to provide opportunities for students to make their thinking visible and gain much-needed feedback for growth. 

The Three Stages of Good Reading process is not intended to replace disciplinary reading strategies where “content determines process,” in ELA, science, social studies, math, etc.  This is an initial process to support general understanding of the text and can be used as the first-read in a close reading process in a content area followed by subsequent reading through the lens of the discipline.

(Click the document to follow the link.)

Clarifying Confusion, Part 2

As a follow-up the Clarifying Confusion post from April 2017, I am sharing sample presentations for introducing target clusters in our Clarifying Confusion unit for our intervention for 6th – 9th graders.  See April post for a better description of the standard for this unit and the targets for instruction. 

I see this unit as the heart of our work.  Our standards for this intervention are built around the tenets of reciprocal teaching (Palinscar & Brown, 1984).  When I work with students at the secondary and postsecondary levels, they express that among their greatest frustrations is not knowing what to do when they don’t understand what they’ve read or not realizing they do not understand until the end of the text or during a test.  The purpose of the standard for this unit, as mentioned in a previous post, is to help students develop a mental framework for how to identify confusion and resolve it. 

I initially present the process with an analogy for diagnosing and curing an illness.
I do not think of my students as ill, nor do I teach from a deficit perspective, but developing an analogy helps students consider the whole process, before engaging with the parts of how to repair their own confusion.  

Some teachers encourage students to come up with their own analogy for the process. This may be especially useful for students to record and represent their learning at the end of the unit and solidify the process as they continue to develop their clarifying skills independently beyond the intervention classroom.

So, when I introduce this sequence, I focus on three questions.  How do I know I am
confused? What is causing my confusion? How do I repair my confusion?  Between the explicit instruction for each question,  a great deal of practice and application must happen through authentic reading experiences.  For my students, this typically happens through explicit modeling and guided strategy practice, individual conferring, think alouds, and reciprocal teaching.  

Again, the following presentations merely introduce the concepts and vocabulary needed for metacognitive discussions about monitoring for comprehension and repairing confusion.

If you have questions about any of these resources, please comment or email

References for Further Study: 

Carter, C. (1997). Why reciprocal teaching? Educational leadership. (54)6: 64-68.

Palinscar, A.S., and Brown, A.L. (1984). Reciprocal teaching of comprehension: Fostering and monitoring activities. Cognition and Instruction (1) 2: 111-175.

Tovani, C. (2000). I read it, but I don’t get it. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Literacy Lessons – Predictions

The lesson below explains an instructional strategy that I’ve used with narratives in our first unit for secondary intervention students.  This engages student thinking to make predictions, guide reading, and sustain interest in the story.  This strategy also offers space for front-loading important and unfamiliar vocabulary.  As students read, they gather evidence to make adjustments to their original predictions.  “Fragments from the story, in the form of clue words and phrases (context clues), enable readers to form an overall impression of how the characters and events interact in the story” (Vacca, Vacca, & Mraz). Variations of this strategy can be found in a variety of resources.  Here you can see how it connects to a standard and specific targets (Marzano) in our Strategic Reading curriculum.

Story Impressions



Activate prior knowledge specific to the text to determine the purpose for reading.  Use text and text features to develop logical predictions. Monitor the accuracy of the predictions, analyze textual evidence to adjust.


  • adjust predictions based on textual evidence.  
  • monitor the accuracy of predictions based on textual evidence.
  • use the text features and context clues to develop logical predictions.



Lesson Steps:

  • Students will receive a list of clue words “selected directly from the story and sequenced with arrows or lines to form a descriptive chain”(Vacca, Vacca, & Mraz). These words are chosen from a text that challenges but doesn’t frustrate students. 
  • Engage students in an effective strategy for exploring the unfamiliar vocabulary that is essential to the theme of the story.
  • After unfamiliar words have been explored and the Story Impression process has been modeled (the first time), students will use the clue words to write a story prediction for the short story or chapter they are about to read.  Students must use all of the words in the story chain.  Using all the terms requires students to predict the possible connections between the words and concepts.
  • Students share their ideas in pairs and volunteers share out.  If time allows, the teacher may facilitate quick discussion about how evidence fueled the predictions. 
  • Students will read the text using a process chosen by the teacher.  (Even a version reciprocal teaching could be used here.)  The teacher may identify stopping points for students to discuss adjustments and the evidence that supports them. 
  • During the reading process, the teacher can monitor conversations or conference with students about the applications of the target skills.

Academic Vocabulary:

Prediction, adjust, context, text features, textual evidence 

 Monitoring/ Assessment:  

  • Written story impression using all of the terms/concepts provided. 
  • Exit Slip/Quick Write – How did the story differ from your prediction?  Provide evidence from the text to show the differences.
  • Student-teacher conferencing throughout the process.

Signs and Fix-ups

As a follow-up to my April post about Clarifying Confusion,  I am sharing links to introductory lessons for clarifying and repairing confusion.  Below are two resources from the Help Teens Read page at Teachers Pay Teachers.

The first item is a Cornell Notes printable (student and teachers pages with visuals) for identifying the six common signs of confusion.  See description below:

This poster shows the concepts included in the Clarifying Confusion resource.

As the first step in helping our students be metacognitive about the process of identifying their own confusion, isolating causes of their confusion, and choosing options for repairing our confusion, we teach students the common signs readers experience when confusion occurs.  This Cornell notes task introduces students to the common signs,  engages students in Cornell note taking, and supports instruction of main ideas, supporting details and summary writing.  These are all targets within our intervention curriculum for students in grades 6-9.  The commentary and graphics are developed by the contributors, but the content is based on Cris Tovani text, I Read it, But I don’t Get It.

Elements provided with the Fix-up Cornell notes resource

The second item, also a Cornell Notes printable with visuals included,  is used once students have a fair grasp of when they feel confused and what causes the confusion. See description below:

Helping students use effective strategies to repair confusion as they read is an important and challenging step to helping secondary students become proficient readers.  The steps may be intuitive to proficient readers, but some students need explicit instruction and authentic practice.  This Cornell notes task introduces students to the ten common repair strategies,  engages students in Cornell note taking, and supports instruction of main ideas, supporting details and summary writing.  These are all targets within the intervention curriculum for students in grades 6-9.   The fix-ups are divided into three segments.  Students may find learning and practicing use in authentic ways a few at a time helps them become more independent at applying each when needed. Ultimately, students can develop a toolbox of many strategies that apply to their own common challenges.  The commentary and graphics are developed by the Helpteensread contributors, but the content is based on Cris Tovani text,  I Read it But I don’t Get It.

Strategy Discussion Cards

HelpTeensRead has added a new resource to Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT).   It has been a busy time for us both. We will try to be more diligent in posting resources in the future. Please respond to this post to let us know what types of resources interest you.  Our literacy resources are intended to support secondary literacy intervention and secondary disciplinary literacy strategy instruction.
Below is the explanation offered as part of the resource:

Reciprocal Teaching
Discussion  Cards

Our district secondary intervention requires reciprocal teaching as a way to encourage discussion and blend the strategies learned in class.  Although we started with the brilliant resources of Lori Oczkus (Reciprocal Teaching at Work), over the last decade, Help Teens Read teachers (Brian Hubbard and Tracy Cooper) have developed many variations on the reciprocal teaching techniques to scaffold and deepen student literacy skills through discussion with other learners. Our most successful variations and extensions have been in core content classes where we support literacy skills in disciplinary reading.   

At the upper middle and high school levels, our goal is authenticity of skill use. We build reciprocal teaching processes for meaning making strategies directly through the annotation of text.  We focus on disciplinary text and current events that build the students’ vocabulary and background knowledge.   We want students to apply the skills of developing predictions, clarifying confusion, asking questions, retelling and summarizing as they encounter complex text in school and life.
(Rationale for adding retelling, see Emily Kissner, 2006)

The discussion card set provided is one example of how we guide students through individual roles as they read segmented text (3-5 chunks with stopping points, see simple example provided) that allows for strategy application.  Each discussion card provides a student with a guide for their assigned role as he participates in the collaborative group. Traditional reciprocal teaching groups have four roles.  We have embedded a process for students to stop, think, and retell (a 5th role)  in order to address confusions and misconceptions along the way.

The role cards can be used in many ways.  Here are some example:

  1. The roles can be assigned as differentiation to address students specific skill needs. The role cards can stay with one student for the whole text or be shifted at each stopping point when you feel students understand process and product for each role.
  2. The teacher may wish to add the strategies as the students work toward autonomy. For example,  a teacher may wish to explicitly support the retelling process and allow students to read text in pairs and take turns reading, retelling, and adjusting the retell.  Maybe students are struggling with questioning and clarifying, the teacher may have students use only these strategies during reciprocal teaching until these skills are strong enough to blend with the other strategies. 
  3. After you teach each strategy through explicit and guided instruction, you may wish to only add that strategy to reading and retelling.  For example, one student may read a chunk of text,  the next student may retell (students will discuss accuracy) and then the third student may adjust predictions.  These roles may stay stable for this whole text, or students shuffle at the end of each chunk.   Once you teach the next strategy, clarifying for example,  then add that strategy to the discussions.

Whatever process you choose, you may ask students to individually or collaboratively write a summary at the end of the RT discussion.  Monitoring the reciprocal teaching discussion, student annotations, and the summaries allows you to adjust instruction for areas of strength and weakness.

This TPT resource includes PDFs for five role cards (example in image above), a sample text that shows how we chunk text for this variation on reciprocal teaching, and the explanation shown above.   If you find a reason to use this resource, please leave a rating. We like to know if it is useful to you.   Please feel free to contact me through the blog with any questions.

What Works for Me: Reciprocal Teaching

unspecified-4Reciprocal teaching is a collaborative structure used to help students engage in essential proficient reader actions with the support of a peer group.  Many years ago, before my reading specialist education,  the desire that fueled my summer research reading was to find a method to support non-readers, reluctant readers, and struggling readers in my content classes (ELA & Social Studies), or according the NAEP, about 64% of 8th graders and 63% of 12th graders in 2013.  I started reading anything about best practices that would help adolescents read strategically in my class.  The data around reciprocal teaching grabbed my attention and has held it for most of my career.  My education since those days has only reinforced my desire to find the most effective method for implementing reciprocal teaching in content classes, as well as in my intervention classes.   I have used many variations to structure reciprocal teaching over the years.  Most recently the process below is bringing the strongest results to-date. I embed re-telling into the process, at the risk of complicating the collaborative structure, but the results have been positive.  Below you will find the general process I currently use, although please note that I adjust and tweak as needed based the struggles and strengths I observed as I monitored student progress.

Sample framework for reciprocal teaching session (with retelling embedded):

  1. Activate prior knowledge on the topic.  The topic should be chosen to engage and challenge the readers.  A variety of options exist, including but not limited to: KWL, Connect-Extend-Challenge, Question Formulation Technique.
  2. Groups can all meet at once or meet in a rotation as part of a station structure.   The READER will read until he/she reaches a “STOP”  break in the document.  I keep text to a manageable length and add 3-4  “STOP” breaks in the text.
  3. The RETELLER, who has annotated for essential vocabulary, will use those essential terms to retell the main ideas.  Other students are encouraged to help adjust the retelling if they feel the author’s meaning is altered or main ideas were excluded.
  4. The CLARIFIER, who has been annotating for words and concepts that were confusing, will offer those to the group for discussion and clarification.  If background knowledge of the group is not sufficient, a discussion on and application of fix-up strategies should ensue.
  5. The QUESTIONER, who has annotated for important ideas and inferences, asks explicit and implicit questions to check for understanding.   This is how I use the questioning element.  It is an extension of the Question Answer Relationship strategy and encourages students to focus on what is important in the text.  This is not the only way to use this questioning element.
  6. This process will be repeated at each of the 3-4 stops in the text.
  7. The READER, who is also the SUMMARIZER, will develop a summary independently or with the collaboration of the group.  If completing the summary independently is the option, the final summary is shared with the group to discuss if anything should be added or subtracted.  Another options requires all members of the group to prepare a summary independently and share out for similar feedback.

NOTE:  This process will develop over time.  Add each strategy to the process as you provide direct instruction, modeling and practice.   You can start with reading, retelling, and prediction/purpose setting, and then add the other strategies as they are introduced. Students can complete one strategy for the whole article or switch after each stop.  Be intentional about assigning roles to encourage practice and growth where needed.


If you would like more comprehensive guidance on how to implement reciprocal teaching in an intervention class or a content class, I recommend the thorough support that comes from Reciprocal Teaching at Work: Powerful Strategies and Lessons for Improving Reading Comprehension by Lori D. Oczkus (2nd Edition, 2010).  In this text, Oczkus includes the research that supports the validity and long-term effectiveness of this instructional practice (also see Palincsar & Brown, 1984).  Additionally, in Visible Learning for Literacy, Grades K-12, Implementing the Practices that Work Best to Accelerate Student Learning (Fisher, Frey, & Hattie, 2016) reciprocal teaching is identified with an effect size of 0.74.  The authors note that the evidence supporting the effectiveness of reciprocal teaching is broad and that “researchers have found it to be effective with students with disabilities, English learners, and bilingual students.”   It is especially useful as an intervention strategy when used with fidelity.  

When I say this comprehension strategy should be used with fidelity, I do not mean that there is one classroom room process that works for all in every situation.  As noted earlier, organizing the use of the skills collaboratively and authentically can happen in a variety of ways.  However, there are some common mutations that alter success:

  • Focusing on engagement versus monitoring comprehension as a primary goal/objective.  
  • Altering the use of the strategies in unison. Strategies should be explicitly introduced and modeled individually, but the long-term development is built on using the strategies in unison, as they would authentically be used by a proficient reader.
  • Lack of specificity around the processes of questioning and clarifying strategies.
  • Not holding students to fidelity of each strategy as students collaborate to make meaning in reciprocal teaching groups.
  • Too much scaffolding (lack of gradual release by teacher or ownership by students) that prevents students from working towards independence.  
  • No scaffolding.  This involves not having a clear instructional process proven to support learning strategy development.

If you are using a structure for reciprocal teaching that is encouraging authentic student conversations and building natural application of comprehension strategies,  please comment about how your process works in your classroom.   I enjoy hearing how teachers at all levels and in every content areas are helping students make meaning from challenging text.