Embedded Reading

Simplify, Scaffold, Succeed!!

Archive for the day “March 4, 2013”

The Practical Question: How Do I Use An Embedded Reading?

One step at a time.

Step 1: Tell them what it is.

We are asking students to read several versions of a text.  Some students would prefer to not even read one.  We need to be transparent about our goal:  to make this reading comprehensible and accessible because _____________________________________ (you fill in the blank for the piece you’ve chosen.)

Promise them that if they stay with you, that this is going to work.  It has worked for hundreds of students across the world and it is going to work for them as well.

Step 2: Make the base reading as clear as possible.


The base reading is the magic ticket.  If the students really get this, the rest is easy.  Go slowly.  Make sure that each word, each phrase, each sentence is understood.   They need a clear visual of what is going on in this reading.  Crystal clear.  They may have questions about what happens next, or why something is happening (Great! We want them interested and curious!) but what is in the text should be solid.   Ask questions.  Check for comprehension.  Get a summary.  Act it out.  Illustrate it.  Whatever it takes to make sure that everyone has the same view of what is in the base reading.

Step 3:  Continue now or continue later?

Whatever is best for the students.  Other than that, it doesn’t matter.  Really.  If they are still with you, you are prepared and you have enough time, goon to the next version.  If not, wait until you meet again.

Step 4: Introduce the next level.

If time has passed since using the base reading, review or reread it.  It won’t take long.  It will also let you see if everyone really understood it.   How?  You know the age level, reading level and temperament of your students.  Silently, read-pair-share, ask questions….you choose.

Step 5: Read the next level of the reading using a different approach or followed by a different activity.  


The goal is to have repetitions of the reading, not to repeat the activity.   That is a sure-fire way to lose student interest.   As you read, make sure to have students identify new language and new information.   Check for comprehension.  Engage in conversation with your students about the piece.  Encourage them to ask questions, note plot twists,make predictions.

Make sure that you have a short follow-up activity for this version.  As long as it is concise, connected to the goals and students will be able to do it successfully, it is a good activity!!   Questions, a quick game, a story board, a summary, etc.   Start with the activities that have already brought your students success.   Look for other ideas to add to your repertoire…you will many more opportunities to use them!!!

Repeat Steps 3, 4 and 5 until the students have read all of the versions of the piece.

The key is to go back to the questions you started with during planning.    If the reading has been scaffolded well, and the activities chosen align with the goals, your students will be able to do this very sucessfully!!!

Teachers have successfully read all of the versions of a reading in two days, or over the course of two weeks.  For more examples of activities, read through the entries in the Category: Using Readings With Students on the right hand side of the page.

Hint: Do not force an unwilling and resistant class too far.   It won’t be worth it.  It would be great if they read all five versions of _____________.  But if they only get through three versions, so be it.

Hint:  If a class has students with a variety of reading levels, allow faster-processing students to read the most advanced version independently while you work with students who need support through a less-strenuous version.

Next post:  Feedback from other teachers who use Embedded Readings.


All content of this website © Embedded Reading 2012-2014 or original authors.  Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited.   Examples and  links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

The Philosophical Question: How Do I Use An Embedded Reading?

Any way that your professional experience and your knowledge of your students tells you to.


 Ask yourself a few questions about the reading before you get started:

1. Why do you want your students to work with this piece? (This is good to know. You may have to defend your choice.)

2. Why will your students want to work with this piece? (If you cannot come up with a good reason, it will be hard to convince them to do it.)

3.  What do you want them to be able to do when they are finished working with this piece? (Use that piece in whatever ways necessary to make that happen.)

4.  What activities do your students already do that help them to achieve the goal(s) identified in #3?  (adapt those to use with a version of the reading.  The things that you ALREADY DO SUCCESSFULLY are the best place to start.)

Connect your activities to your goals.

My goals as a teacher, and my goals for my students, are not the same as yours.

I’ll share mine so that you can understand the activities that I have mentioned for the readings that I use, but you will have to connect your goals to your instruction. ( If you are not about how to do that, please ask.  Many people read this blog and will happily share ideas!)

My Goals:

I teach for comprehension.

Students acquire language when they understand it.   Every time I ask students to read, it must BECOME comprehensible.

I teach for success.

I plan for my students to be successful.   I ask them to focus, to think, to take chances, to adapt, to stretch, to learn from mistakes but every single activity is geared towards success.

I teach so that my students will have a better understanding of the world.

We live in an ever-changing world full of constants.  Love.  Hate.  Challenge.  Triumph.  Laughter.  Tears.  The deeper their understanding of the constants, the more skilled they will be to work with the changes.

I teach so that I can sleep at night.

I try very hard not to mislead, misuse, misjudge, mistake, misread or mismanage my students.  When it happens, because I’m very human, I try to apologize, and to change what I am doing.

Problem #1: It is so easy to get caught up in having my students read a particular piece so that I am happy.  That is in direct opposition to my goals.  What makes me happy?  For a “Top Down” reading it’s beautiful literature, literature that has an emotional connection for me, literature that will impress other educators or parents, literature that makes me feel like a great teacher, articles that native speakers would read, fascinating cultural pieces.  For a “Bottom Up” reading it’s when I love the story that I created, or because I love creating Embedded Readings, because I am proud of how I used every single student contribution, or because I want to show off how well my students have written the stories that eventually became the reading.  But,  teaching should not be about me.  It should be about my students.

The Solution: Examine, realistically, the benefits FOR MY STUDENTS of reading a particular piece.  If the benefits align with my goals, then I have chosen a good piece.

Problem #2:  The piece is too difficult for my students.  It doesn’t matter how perfect the piece is, if I have to destroy it to make it comprehensible it is not the right piece for my students.  If I have to pre-teach a structure for every sentence, it is not the right piece for my students, NO MATTER HOW MUCH I LIKE IT OR WANT TO USE IT.

The Solution:  Choose, very carefully, the pieces to adapt.  Can a piece be scaffolded to BECOME comprehensible within 5 versions?  If not, re-think it’s viability for your students.

Enjoy the journey!!



All content of this website © Embedded Reading 2012-2014 or original authors.  Unauthorized use or distribution of materials without express and written consent of the owners/authors is strictly prohibited.   Examples and  links may be used as long as clear and direct reference to the site and original authors is clearly established.

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