Embedded Reading

Simplify, Scaffold, Succeed!!

Now What?: The Middle Readings

So you’ve set everything up with the base reading and you are ready to move on….so are the students!!  You know where you want the students to be in the final version and now you need to get from here to there.  

Now what?

Let’s look at some additional goals for those readings beyond getting from point A to point Z.

  • Identify the main idea or theme of the text.
  • Identify the supporting details of the main idea or theme.
  • Visualize the meaning of the text.
  • Identify new details in the text.
  • Put the details of the text into a graphic organizer.
  • Illustrate or add details to a storyboard.
  • Add dialogue where it doesn’t appear.
  • Compare/contrast the text to a previously read text or familiar story.
  • Summarize the text.
  • Predict what will happen in the future.
  • Identify the physical description, personality traits, strengths and weaknesses of the characters
  • Predict the emotional reactions of the characters.
  • Compare contrast experiences of the characters with personal stories/experiences.
  • Build reading stamina (the ability to read longer and longer passages without losing focus or forgetting information).
  • Recognize synonyms of familiar words.
  • Create a graphic organizer for the information in the text.
  • Think beyond the reading to create possible additional characters/events that could be added.
  • Wonder what else might be happening in regards to the events and characters in the text.
  • Ask questions about incomprehensible vocabulary or disconnected/missing information.
  • Use the text to create a version that is even more detailed.

It’s completely possible to choose a wonderful activity to do with each level of the text, without having a goal.  However, it usually makes more sense to students if we can connect the chosen activity to a particular goal.

Shhhh….the truth is that COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT is always the goal of reading.  To enjoy the material, to understand the text, to see the movie in the head….and by doing that ….grow language.

But we can also choose other goals.  Ideally, every text we read would be so enthralling that teachers would never have to have other reasons…but then again…we teach in the real world…so…what goal do you have in mind??

In the next post we will look at activities that support our goals!  My guess is that you have a decent repertoire of these already!

Now What? Base Reading and Activities

So you have an embedded reading, and you want to use it with students…Now What?!!!

Well, let’s first look at WHY you want to read this particular piece with students. If you haven’t read “Why Read The Last Version?”, please do! If you know where you are headed with an embedded reading, everything else is easier!

The best place to start when making Now What? decisions is to determine your goals:

1. The Base Reading

Let’s use this base reading in English as an example:

Students are uniting to draw attention to a very important issue. The movement has inspired events in a number of countries. One student in particular has received a lot of attention for her actions. Politicians are not sure how to respond to this movement.

1A. Your first goal for the base reading should always be complete and total comprehension. It’s the core of every other level and so we want to make sure that it is understood. The following can be very helpful:

  • Illustration: Using a blank storyboard, students illustrate each sentence of the base reading. You can then have them compare drawings and add necessary details, or use a picture you have taken of student work/use a document reader to project student work to discuss using the base reading.
  • Gestures: If there is a lot of “gesture-able” vocabulary in the text, students can gesture the meaning of sections of the text as you read it. (ie. uniting, inspired, has received, are not sure)
  • Acting: If the reading lends itself to this, you can use student actors to act out the text as you read/narrate. You can also have students get into pairs or groups, with each student “taking the part” of a character. The teacher reads/narrates and in small groups each student character acts out the sentence read. (For the reading above, after reading for meaning, give small groups 3 minutes to decide how to act it out as you read!)

Regardless of what you choose, the goal and focus of the activity is on understanding the meaning of the text as completely as possible!

1B. Your second goal for the base reading is for it to be interesting!! You are going to try to convince a group of students to read and reread text….there must be something compelling in the base reading that pulls them towards the next level.

Here are some suggestions:

  • This topic may be something students already know something about. Ask students to share (in the TL or in L1 and you restate/rewrite in the TL) what they already have heard/read/seen about the topic. Keep this list to compare to the following versions so students can see their own knowledge appear!
  • Because this reading is just the beginning, a great activity is to create questions about what students DON’T yet know! The first few times you do this, I suggest that you do it together with students as a class activity. Imagine that you are writing to the author/reporter of the base reading and form questions asking for specific information about what might be in the next reading!
    Ideas based on the base reading above:

         What is the important issue?
         Why is it important?
         What kind of events are taking place?
         In which countries are they taking place?
         Who is the student who is receiving a lot of attention and where is she from?
         How are politicians responding?

        Are students in the U.S. participating in this movement?

  • This is also a great place to brainstorm predictions!! Again, model this first by doing this as a class activity. Ideas:

         More and more countries will be involved.
         Politicians will criticize the students.
         Students from the U.S. will be interested and want to be included.

These activities will all work with simple texts and stories!!  There are more, but we will look at those in the next post!!


Why Read The “Last Level”?

This is a fundamentally great question. An embedded reading is a scaffolded series of readings. So, why are we reading all of the versions in the series? It is a question that, once we know the answer, can help us figure out what to do with the readings that we have!!

The base reading is important. That is pretty easy to understand. If students understand this version of the reading, everything else falls into place. It’s the “trailer” or the summary of the piece. As students read the subsequent versions, they will “attach” all of the new details and insights on to this clear and uncomplicated version.

The second version brings the reading to a new level. There will be new details, new information and the story or text becomes a) better understood and b) even more interesting.

But after that???? Now what ?? That is what our students will want to know so we should know as well. So I offer you the TOP ________ REASONS TO READ THE LAST VERSION OF AN EMBEDDED READING !!

Reason #5: Because we have to. (Bear with me, they get better!!)

Not the best reason, but sometimes it’s the most obvious one. Occasionally we are required to have our students “read” a particular piece. The department says so, or the district says so, or maybe even the state we teach in says so. So we make sure they read it. As teachers, using embedded readings to get students to better understand a piece that even we may not see as compelling makes perfect sense. Our students may not be as appreciative, so hopefully we will not have to use this reason too frequently.

Reason # 4: Because it is a beautiful piece of literature.

This is a teacher favorite. We are often well-read and have at our disposal an enormous array of beautiful pieces that we want to share with our students. Prefacing the reading of an entire text with more comprehensible versions can make this literature much more interesting and appealing to our students. We love certain pieces so much that we feel that we are shortchanging our students if we don’t share these pieces with them.

My opinion on this one is only an opinion, but I think that it is worth considering. The best version of beautiful literature is one that students will understand. If the “last” version that we have prepared is above their level, it isn’t valuable yet. The next to last version will be the one that resonates with them, that resides in their hearts and will open the door, down the road, for a deeper and longer-lasting experience reading the original version of the piece.

The one time this does work, is in our upper level classes (usually levels 4 and up) when the final version is lyrics to a song. In beginning classes, even intermediate years, when I use a beautiful but difficult song, we will focus only on the truly comprehensible pieces of the song, usually the chorus and the first verse. However, in upper level classes, the entire song, because it may be hear over and over again afterwards is a worthwhile version to work through.

Reason # 3: Because students wrote the details in this level.

This is a truly compelling reason for students!! One of the delightful uses of an embedded reading is to ask students to suggest embellishments, improvements or information to an existing version. Students LOVE to read their own ideas in a text!!! There are several ways to bring this about. Here are a few:

Provide students with a text electronically and ask them to enter new information or change existing text. Ask them to highlight or change the text color so that their changes are easy to find. This can be done by individual students or pairs. Students then can share their new versions with you. Next, take their suggestions and ideas to combine them with the existing text to make a new and original version !!!
After reading a text with students, ask students to submit ideas for new information, language, or ideas on a slip of paper and collect them. Use these ideas to create a new version of the text.
With a longer text, print one copy and cut it into smaller sections (1-2 paragraphs). Give each section to a small group of students and have them add (by hand) new language or information to their section. Combine the sections and share with students.

Reason # 2: Because without it, the text/story is incomplete.

Sometimes an embedded reading is created so that the true and logical ending of the text doesn’t appear until the last version. Now, this is a great reason to read the “last version” of the story, and one that students will definitely buy into! Just as a trailer to a movie can give the viewer a glimpse of the film, but not the entire picture, an embedded reading can give a great deal of information or the good part of a story without giving away the ending. Reading the last version to see how it ends is very satisfying!!

Reason #1: Because the BEST STUFF IS IN THE LAST VERSION!!

This is the best reason to read the last version!! It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, BOOM!! That’s the really good stuff! Every reader loves a good plot twist and whether or not it is anticipated, keeping the plot twist for the final version is key!!! These already occur in so many “authentic” resources and as writers, it is a wonderful way to motivate students to read!! I want to give a shout out to Justin Slocum Bailey for talking about this in his blog post “Creating Twisted Embedded Readings”

When we know WHY we want students to read a “final version” it becomes so much easier to decide HOW we want to read that version (as well as previous versions) of a text. And that is the topic of the next post….so stay tuned….


CI Midwest October 2018

Hello CI Midwest Attendees!

What an amazing conference!  We had three wonderful hours digging into Embedded Reading. The PowerPoints we used are here (in PDF form) :

 Embedded Reading_ The Basics

Creating Embedded Readings

Here is a document that can help you with creating Embedded Readings!

Creating Embedded Readings

If you would like to see samples of readings in the language(s) you teach, use the bar on the right side to search and click.

Here you will find a document with a variety of reading activities to help you choose activities to use with each level of a reading:

Copy of Reading Activities Chart

Thanks again CI Midwest Crew!!! Hope to see you next year!

CI Mitten Mitten CI 2018

Hello and welcome!!  It was wonderful so see old friends and meet new ones here!

Here is a PDF of the PowerPoint we used.  I’ll post a more complete version as part of a webinar in the next month or so.

Embedded Reading FP_ The Basics

Many of you asked for reading activities.  Here is a chart with a number of activities on it.  You may want additional explanations, but this list is a great place to start!

Reading Activities Chart

with love,


An Online Opportunity

Scott Benedict at Teach For June has created an amazing opportunity for educators!  Fifteen presenters, forty topics and fifty hours of valuable information…all online from March 24-April 15!  Two of those workshops are on Embedded Reading and there is much, much more.   Check out the opportunity at www.comprehensible.online !


COACH Inspires!!

I’m having a wonderful day with passionate and dedicated language teachers at Los Alamitos High School!

We started the morning with Jason Fritze reviewing the ACTFL Core Practices.   

Here you will find the PowerPoint for the Community-S. presentation.

Here is the PowerPoint for theEmbedded Reading Intro for Coach that we used today!

Go here if you want to see/use thegrandma-all levels copy .

Interested in the Embedded Reading using Enrique and Eres Tú?  Click here:   Eres tu con Enrique

Right now the participants are working in language groups examining best practices and the skills needed to incorporate Core Practices with COMPREHENSIBLE INPUT in the real classroom.  They are being led by members of the (devoted and skilled) COACH team.

We are watching video clips of teachers in the classroom, with their own students and identifying (and appreciating!)  what we see.   What a wonderful model.  Bit by bit this idea of opening ourselves up to others in the profession is taking hold…and I really think that it will radically change classrooms across the country.

Kudos to COACH for all they do!

with love,


Hearts For Teaching is Alive and Well Again!

Thank you to all of you for your patience and flexibility while the site was down!  The Hearts For Teaching blog posts will now be found here.    Since many of you have asked, I’ll post a blurb here on the Embedded Reading site when a new Hearts For Teaching post comes up so that you can stay connected. (or you can follow me there too!)

The newest post is “Time To Slow Down.”  Remember, this is about my kids and my classroom; what you do is always up to you!

with love,


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