4-Read Strategy: A tangible way to teach annotating and analyzing text

6 Min Read  •  Literacy

Supporting the common core through the Arts can come in many forms.

One effective strategy found in the anchor standards of college and career readiness presented by the Common Core State Standards through the reading standards.  The reading standards administer the following objectives:  read, determine, analyze, interpret, assess, integrate, evaluate, delineate, and comprehend.  So, how do we as arts educators support the development of critical reading while we prepare for performances, perfect technique, and solidify concert venues?

Despite the fact we are inundated with the performance aspect of our arts, it is important to foster the theory of the art as well as the performance.  Although performance-based arts may find it difficult to read everyday, if we find time within our schedules to supplement performance and technique by providing reading opportunities; not only do we create intelligent artists, we also support the common core.

According to Webb (2005), the highest level of Depth of Knowledge involves analyzing, synthesizing, and applying. This begins with reading and annotating.  Annotating is a skill (similar to note-taking) not commonly taught, but rather, expected.   The following 4-read strategy will assist your students in analyzing text within your arts classes. Thus further supporting the common core initiative.  There are many similarities between the 4 read strategy and the AVID critical reading technique.  However, this is a process that needs to be taught, as it is not innate.  Begin with modeling the process, then completing the process as a class, then in smaller groups, then as individuals.

The Common Core

The Common Core emphasizes the ability to read and write critically and involves multiple structures such as informative, expository, argumentative, and persuasive reading and writing.  As we begin gathering text for our students to read strategy, and compose opportunities for our students to write, we must remember to include all structures.  Informative text imparts straightforward information; facts, statistics, dates, etc.  Informative pieces are helpful for background information; however lack the opportunity to truly interact with the text, as they predominately introduce facts.

Expository texts take it beyond informing by including ideas, explanations, and evidence.  Since expository text can be more subjective than straightforward informational text, it provides opportunity for the reader to interact with the text and the author.

Five structures of expository text include: description, sequence, comparison, cause and effect, and problem and solution.   Argumentative and persuasive text/writing can often be confused.  Argumentative text is more balanced and provides information about both sides of the argument, whereas persuasive text makes a claim and purposefully attempts to get the reader to agree with that claim.  Although informative text is important for providing an introductory background, the following read strategy works best with expository, argumentative, and persuasive text.

The 4-Read strategy involves four readings of the text, albeit the first 2 reads are more of a skimming of the text rather than a comprehensive read.  The 4 reads are as follows:

1.  Read for Vocabulary

2.  Read for Sections and Claims

3.  Read for Dinner

4.  Read for an Assignment

1.  Read for Vocabulary

The first read strategy involves skimming the text to find words that are unfamiliar.  Have students highlight the word, look up the definition, and write the definition in the margin of the text.  If you are working out of a text that cannot be written on, have students use post it notes that can be removed.

This first read allows students to find all new words and provide a definition in the margin thereby allowing them to read without constraint and broaden their own personal vocabulary.

2.  Read for Sections and Claims

The second read offers students the chance to “chunk” information making the text easily digestible and less threatening (this is especially helpful with longer texts).  Have students section the text by main idea, use a highlighter to create section breaks, and write the “topic” of the section in the margin or on a post it.  Remember, sections are not necessarily the paragraphs; multiple paragraphs can be centered on one specific topic or main idea. Next, have students identify and highlight the claim(s) made by the author, and then rewrite the claim in their own words on a post it.

3.  Read for Dinner

I like to call this read: Dinner with the Author.  It gives the reader a chance to interact with the text and converse with the author.  Although this read is most beneficial when students have multiple articles and authors to converse with, it can still be accomplished with the first article they read.  This read is also most useful with structures that are not solely informative.

Students need to read each section and answer the following questions (per section not paragraph):

What does it say?
What does it mean?
Why is it important? (this question can be altered based on the purpose of the article, or the experience you want them to have with the article; such as, why is it important to… our dance program, dance in the 21st century, dance on TV, commercialized dance etc.)

These questions mirror the Depth of Knowledge (DOK) levels.

 1: What does it say, falls under DOK level 1 allowing students to merely comprehend and recall information.
 2: What does it mean, encourages a broader level of thought (DOK 2) by expecting students to interpret the information and construct a deeper understanding of the information presented.
 3: Why is it important, promotes more strategic thinking (DOK 3) by asking students to draw conclusions, hypothesize, and formulate purpose behind what they are reading.

The purpose of this section is to create discourse between the reader and the text.  Informative texts/articles provide a foundation of fact, which makes this process a little more difficult, this is why expository, argumentative, and persuasive text are most effective with this process.  To move into a deeper understanding and greater discourse also ask the following:

Do you agree/disagree?
Who else (meaning what other authors/articles have your read that) would agree/disagree?

These questions allow the reader begin working with the expectations of DOK level 4 where they need to synthesize the information. Then, analyze the concepts, connect the ideas to prior knowledge and/or other readings, and create their own personal stance on the topic.

4.  Read for Assignment

The purpose of the final read is to complete an assignment.  Be sure that each text is accompanied by an activity or task that allows for students to draw on Depth of Knowledge level 4, which requires students to design, connect, synthesize, apply concepts, critique, analyze, create, and/or prove.

Sample Assignments

Compose a 30 second elevator speech
Design a set of interview questions for the author
Create a flyer advertising the authors claim
Construct 5 discussion questions
Devise a reading quiz to administer
Construct a conversation between two authors
Write a response to the article to be published in your school newspaper
Search the internet for a piece that presents an opposite claim(s)
Search the internet to find evidence that proves the authors claim(s)

Reading Tips

It is not uncommon for students to dislike reading. This can be attributed to many factors: The topic is boring, or students are not strong readers. Additionally, the passage is too long, they get lost or forget what they read, and they don’t find value in it…

So, when choosing articles to introduce in class, remember to find articles that provide interesting claims on topics. Articles not too lengthy, and fall within the students zone of proximal development (ZPD). Most of all, articles that are fun!  Newsela.com is a great source for articles on multiple topics. Students can even tailor the articles to their personal reading levels.


The AVID Center (2010).  Critical Reading Strategies. AVID.org
Webb, N.L. (2005). Web Alignment Tool. Wisconsin Center of Educational Research. University of Wisconsin-Madison.