Coding Text

Description:

A quick way for students to become conscious of and to record mental responses to their reading is to use a simple coding system. For example, if a student, while reading, notices a connection to another unit in you course, to other subjects, or something in his or her life, the student jots down a C in the margin; if confused then they student writes HUH?. Students may add brief phrases or comment explaining their thinking. If the book belongs to the school, or if the teacher wishes students to be able to spot their notations quickly during class discussions, the codes can be placed on the post-it note that was described in other strategies.

Why use it?

If students are not accustomed to thinking actively as they read, they need to make conscious efforts to do so, but not so intrusively as to totally interrupt the flow of their reading. Symbols help students remember a strategy, notice when their thinking has followed it, and then very briefly note the spot in the text where they think that it occurred. If students want to think more deeply as they read, we need to provide explicit mechanisms for them to do this, rather than just exhort them to “really think about the material”.

How does it work?


A set of codes, called INSERTS (Interactive Notation System for Effective Reading and Thinking), that teachers have found useful:

Check Mark-confirms what you thought

??-Confuses you

X-contradicts what you thought

*- Strikes you as important

?-Puzzles you

Arrow-new or interesting

Be sure to introduce just one or two symbols at a time and demonstrate for students when and how they might use them. Then ask kids to share their coded responses later, when they discuss or work with the reading.

You can invent your own coding system that matches the subject matter at hand. Stephanie Harvey and Ann Goudvis use codes widely to teach each of the seven thinking strategies that they describe in their book, Strategies That Work (Stenhouse 2000) A sampling of their codes:

R-Reminds me of…

A- Questions answered in text

T-S-Text-to-self connection

T-T- Text-to-other-text connections

D- Questions that could be answered through discussion

Subjects Matter


*The most important step in being able to use the strategy “Coding Text” is familiarizing the students with the codes that we will use in our readings. I will be using a very similar list of codes that were described above:

??-Confuses you
R-Reminds me of…
A- Questions answered in text
X-contradicts what you thought
T-S-Text-to-self connection
T-T- Text-to-other-text connections
D- Questions that could be answered through discussion
?-Puzzles you Arrow-new or interesting

Once we have a understanding of what the codes are and what they mean students will then be able to use them in the readings. I will assign a reading regarding DNA and genetics. Students will be given a small “chunk” of the reading to begin with in order to make certain that students have a firm understanding of how to use the coding technique. Once finished, student will break up into groups and share their text with others in there groups. They will give each other feedback on the codes and their use in the section. They will discuss the reading, answering any questions that they may have had during their reading of the section, and explain any and all ties that they may have made with their real life and/or other text. These maybe include students recognize genetics in use in their own lives and where they may have seen DNA before in other sections or other texts. They will then read the next section of the text and again discuss their coded responses with their group. These steps will be repeated until the reading is complete and all coded responses were shared with the group. I will be constantly monitoring student coding especially at first then gradually decreasing once they have a better understanding of how to use the codes. Once they are using the codes with a minimum of confusion I will gradually increase the number of codes used in a reading but at first it is important to use a few codes until they have mastered their use and learned how to they may benefit from them.