A reading comprehension strategy for elementary students

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6 Signposts for Close Reading

If you’re a teacher that means you’ve been successful enough in school to get a college degree.  This also means you are probably a natural “comprehender” when it comes to things that you read.

I don’t remember being taught to ask myself questions as I read, to identify the plot elements, or to reread when something didn’t make sense.  I just naturally have done those things for a long time because I expect text to make sense.  This makes it difficult to help students who are not natural comprehenders.  It’s a challenge to dissect and put into words things that your brain does effortlessly as you read.

Come to think of it, I suppose this is the task of elementary teachers all day long, but I think it’s especially tricky when it comes to reading comprehension.  In math there are steps and models, phonics has rules, but with comprehension it’s just so “mooshy-gooshy.”

For years I’ve been trying to put my finger on exactly how to get kids to figure out what is important in a text, or what to pay attention to and remember.  You can point kids toward noticing features of fiction stories or plot structure and this is a start.  However, this doesn’t get them to the meatier themes in what they read.

My interest was piqued when I came across a blog post about the “6 Signposts” by Becca over at Simply 2nd Resources.  Shes’s reading the book Notice and Note: Strategies for Close Reading, by Kylene Beers and  Robert E. Probst.

Click the picture to find out more about the book

The authors read lots of adolescent literature and discovered the ways that the authors gave their readers clues about how the characters were changing and what the theme of the book might be.  They distilled it down into 6 signposts.  Well what do ya know?!? Other people have taken on the same teaching mission in life as I have, helping kids figure out what is important to pay attention to when they’re reading.

So of course my next thought was, these concepts need an anchor chart!

free reading comprehension chart featuring the 6 signposts, for use in elementary classrooms

Click the picture to download a free copy of the chart.


The strategy was designed for 4th-7th grade students but I think even younger students could benefit from exposure.  You could demonstrate some of this during class read-alouds or use it with more advanced reading groups.

Here is the “Cliff’s Notes” version of the signposts:

Contrasts and Contradictions – When the character does something different from what you would expect, ask yourself why the character is doing that.

Words of the Wiser – When an older or wiser character gives the main character advice, ask yourself what the lesson might be or how it will affect the character’s life.

Aha! Moment – When a character suddenly figures something out or understands something, ask yourself how that moment might change things.

Again and Again – When something is repeated in a book, ask yourself why the author thought it was important enough to repeat.

Memory Moment – When the action is interrupted and the author tells you about a memory, ask yourself why the memory might be important.

Tough Questions – When the character asks themselves a tough question, think about what the tough questions makes you wonder.


Read more about this strategy in the book Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading.

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Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun is a former teacher with 8 years of experience in the classroom and a master's degree in early childhood education. She designs engaging, organized classroom resources for 1st-3rd grade teachers.


  1. Thank you for sharing this gorgeous color visual for Signposts! I will use it in my classroom!

  2. Any idea where to locate some signposts for Bridge to Terabithia. I am knew to signposts and what a teacher reference as we begin out read aloud.

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