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Nine Instructional Moves for Teaching Texts

By Dave Stuart Jr.

Note from Dave: This post and its nine moves has been polished, improved, and incorporated into the reading chapter of my new book, These 6 Things: How to Focus Your Teaching on What Matters Most. If you like my blog, you'll like the book — it's a condensed and coherent version of all that I've written on the blog for its first six years. Learn more here.

We are awesome at over-complicating things. (Teachers, I mean.)

For example, take any lesson in which we need our students to read something.

We have two objectives in any lesson where kids need to read. First, we need our kids to understand the text. Second, we need them to do something with that understanding (analyze, argue, compare, determine, develop, integrate, interpret, summarize, etc. I'm just pulling words from Jim Burke and Barry Gilmore's Academic Moves for College and Career Readiness — all fifteen of those are strong foundations for post-understanding, text-based lesson objectives). If we teach our students to do any of those things with their reading of a text, we can sleep well. We are investing in their long-term good.

To achieve these objectives, there are just nine moves at which we need to become awesome.

9 Instructional Moves for Teaching with Texts

Before reading, we can do some or all of the following:

  1. Hook them into the reading,
  2. Introduce any vocabulary that might get in their way, 10 words or less,
  3. and/or set the purpose for their reading — explain how what they'll be doing after they read ought to inform how they'll read.

During reading, we can do some or all of the following:

  1. Model reading — e.g., demonstrating how to purposefully annotate, or reading/thinking aloud the first paragraph;
  2. Check for understanding;
  3. and/or allow for independent practice. Our goal for this last piece is that we've done just enough with the preceding moves to enable each student to effectively grapple with the text.

After reading, we need to teach our kids how to do one or more of the following in light of the text:

  1. Discuss (I like using Conversation Challenge or Think-Quad-Share, a variation of Think-Pair-Share);
  2. Debate (I obviously like Pop-Up Debate);
  3. and/or Write (I like Graff and Birkenstein's They Say, I Say templates; the two-paragraph version is ideal for texts that make claims).

That's it.

Those nine things, in the simplest, most minimalist combinations possible, are the moves we ought to be practicing again and again as teachers. My students don't seem to be on the brink of revolt when I use those same nine pieces, all year long, with dozens upon dozens of articles, documents, excerpts, chapters, poems, etc. I suspect that this is because the ideas in the texts, the challenges they present, and the work we do after reading them have become a part of who we are as a family and a team.

Note from Dave: The nine moves mentioned above are explained in detail as Part III of the Teaching with Articles Workshop. The workshop also includes over three hours of  interviews with nationally prominent experts like Mike Schmoker, Jim Burke, Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, and Jennifer Gonzalez. Have your administrator order it for you by 2/21 for a pre-launch discount.

9 Responses to Nine Instructional Moves for Teaching Texts

  1. cesa6literacycenter February 21, 2016 at 11:17 am #

    I love the simplicity of this important reminder. It is vital that we don’t skip any of these steps. Thanks for the graphic. The visual representation is very helpful.

  2. RocketPaper February 28, 2017 at 9:02 am #

    Good topic! Makes me think!

  3. josephsiloblog December 14, 2017 at 5:44 pm #

    I clicked this post because it reminded me of the fact that in the chapter Revelation in the Bible, the sword of God is His Word. This aside, the topic of this post is something that I have been reflecting on quite a lot in the last week. It seems easy, as the teacher, to put a lot of pressure on yourself in search for the silver bullet lesson plan or trick of the sleeve that will enlighten dozens of students with just one fell swoop. I liked the fact that you embrace the high failure rate that occurs in this profession. It confirms the conclusion that I had previously reached–experience is the best teacher–by using positive and empowering imagery.

  4. Roshani April 2, 2018 at 5:59 am #

    I really Like your topics !!

  5. Devayani April 20, 2018 at 4:37 am #

    It’s a tremendous topic i really like this.

  6. Daphne Li December 13, 2018 at 7:55 pm #

    This is a great post and really breaks teaching down to a low-stakes activity (even though we know what we do is important). It takes the pressure off a lot by breaking down something big into doable steps. This post made me think about how the way we present things matter to the kids as well. If we break down something major – like a project – into easy, doable steps, then that relieves a lot of the stress kids may feel. Kinda a tangent point to what you wrote. Anyways, I wonder if one has to choose because of time constraints, which ones would be the “more important” ones to focus on. For me, it would be hook, model, and discuss because these are the steps that I found most helpful with students’ motivation when it comes to reading.

    • davestuartjr December 14, 2018 at 9:02 am #

      Daphne, I’m so glad it helps — and yes, it is a stress reducer. I do think that your three steps — hook, model, discuss — are essentials. I treat this set of nine moves in-depth in my recent book, These 6 Things. If you’re interested, that’s here: http://www.davestuartjr.com/t6t

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