Thinking Beyond the Text

inferring, synthesizing, making connections

UDL 3.2

Thinking Beyond the Text is a reading engagement and comprehension strategy that involves students in actively reading, inferring, synthesizing information, and making connections. The strategy is effective because structured questions guide students through delving deeper into the text during whole class or small group discussion or journaling. The questions facilitate inference-making and reflecting on their current knowledge or beliefs to incorporate new knowledge from the fiction or nonfiction texts. Inferences and synthesis are complex tasks, so students are prompted by questions to develop metacognitive reading skills and a deeper comprehension of a text. Students will engage with texts and enjoy reading more when they connect the text to their lives or other texts by making connections.

Implementation Tips

Question Stems for Thinking Beyond the Text
Display and introduce an anchor chart with the [[ | question stems]] (for inferring, synthesizing, and making connections) that have been created for this strategy. Ask these questions each time when reading texts as a class and provide handouts for small group discussions so students internalize the questions when they read independently.
Modeling the Thought Process
Think aloud while reading aloud, sharing your metacognitive reading process. Share inferences you make while reading. Model annotating sentences or sections that spark curiosity or support or challenge knowledge and beliefs. (E.g., This made me question my ideas about…because…). Describe how you synthesize or accept new information.
Making Connections
Requires students to make connections using knowledge from personal experiences, learning about the larger world through history and current events, and reading other texts. Enhance student knowledge and extend the text by sharing maps, documents, photos, websites, videos, or physical objects that relate to the text.
Extending Thinking through Journaling
Create journaling questions/prompts that provoke thought and help students make connections between text and self (e.g., How did the reading change what you believe about X?) or text and the larger world. (e.g., Describe an event in the news that relates to the text we read today.)
Exemplar Journal Entries
Provide an example of a superficial journal entry and one that shows deeper thought. Ask students to compare and evaluate each entry and explain the differences. After students submit their journals, select two or three positive examples and ask the class to explain why you chose them.
Emphasize Unique Perspectives
Provide small groups with structured questions to discuss what supported or challenged their knowledge, beliefs or experiences (Did the text accurately represent a minority experience or was it biased?). Meet after journaling or reflection time. Change student groups over time so students gain unique perspectives from new classmates.
Active Reading Daily
Repeat this activity often, so that students make active reading a habit and become accustomed to responding as they read and considering ideas in light of their own knowledge and experience. Try choosing one Thinking Beyond the Text question to focus on each day for a week.
Encourage Exploration
Ask students to write down questions that arose during reading, journal writing, or group discussion. Students could research answers to their questions, find evidence to support their opinions, or a gain a deeper, well-rounded knowledge of topics from the text. Guide students in finding resources needed to answer their questions.


Extending Literature
As students read a short story or novel, the teacher guides students to analyze the characters and setting. Next, students research the time, place, or culture that provide context for the story. Students compare a character or setting component with their lives. The teacher provides questions or graphic organizers for support.While reading a novel about a family immigrating to a new country, students research the conditions that led the characters to leave their home country. Through writing, discussion, or a project, students compare the characters’ problems and choices with their lives, or stories from family and friends.
Extending Informational Texts
When introducing an informational text, the teacher asks students what they’ve already learned or believe about the topic and writes on the board. After reading, students write an objective summary of the text. The class discusses *“What information surprised you? What information was new to you?”* Students respond in writing to prompts (e.g., “Did the text change your opinion about X? Why or why not?” “How did the text relate to your prior knowledge about the topic?”’ Students write a personal response to the text below the summary and discuss with classmates. Teacher encourages further reading related to students’ questions.

Related Strategies