Using SubtextThis Wednesday was a WOW (Working on the Work) day at my school. I decided to share the strategy of using subtext to help students understand what they are reading. I got this idea from Breakthrough to Meaning by: Jean Anne Clyde. Using subtext is considering the thoughts behind the action in the story (or reading between the lines).
Here is the way I suggested it be taught in a third grade classroom:
Day 1 - Show the students a photo with several people with different expressions. Teacher thinks aloud about the possibilities of the thoughts in the characters' heads, "He must be thinking, Ugh! this is boring." "She must be thinking, I wish I had one of those!" etc. Then give the students their own picture to try from a picture book for the active engagement. During work session, students use subtext on the illustrations in their own personal books.
Day 2 - Show students another photo with several people wearing different expressions. This time as the teacher thinks aloud she considers different possibilities for the thoughts. They could be thinking____________ OR ______________. Students are given a photo to do the same for active engagement. During the first ten minutes of the work session the teacher passes out a different photocopied illustration to each set of mini lesson partners. Students consider different subtext for the photos.
Day 3 - Transition to text. Prior to lesson the teacher has done a read aloud. I suggest One Green Apple by Eve Bunting because this book deals with a situation the students probably have never encountered. During the mini lesson, the teacher walks back through the story thinking aloud about what they thought the thoughts were behind the actions going on (subtext). The teacher leaves one page for the students to try the strategy during active engagement. They practice subtext during the work session.
Day 4 - Prior to lesson the teacher has done a read aloud. I used The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson . During the mini lesson, the teacher brings out the book with sticky notes that have been placed in all the places where she used subtext while reading. She reads through the book stopping to share her subtext thoughts. One page is saved for student practice in the active engagement. For the work session, students take sticky notes and jot their own thoughts about the subtext while reading a new text.
I think subtext can be an important strategy for intermediate students. Throughout their primary and intermediate years they have learned metacognitive strategies such as questioning, inferring, connecting, and determining importance. Subtext is a way for them to "draw from their bag of strategies" and use these processes to think beyond the obvious and consider what is not written.