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Making Meaning


Making Meaning is an activity or procedure where students are given a standardized and consistent set of questions that provides them with the steps to systematically analyze the meaning of various texts. It helps students to break down the task of analysis into manageable chunks. For example: • What do you notice? • What questions do you have about what you read? • What is significant about this text? • How does this text affect our work and our lives?

Learning Strategies 

  • Determining Importance
  • Inferring
  • Synthesizing
Analyzing Theme, Theme

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Reflection
  • Synthesis

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Math
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Listening
  • Numeracy
  • Reading
  • Speaking
  • Writing

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Balancing Informative and Literary Texts
  • Building Knowledge in the Discipline
  • Staircase of Complexity
  • Text-Based Answers


Identify a target text. Consider each of the questions, and consider your own answers to each question, and the range of appropriate and possible answers. Decide what you will look and hope for from the students.

Activity Steps 
  1. Students read the text silently, making notes about what they notice.

    You should model reading the text in silence as well.

  2. Teacher asks the group: “What do you notice?” Students respond with their observations about the text. Teacher records responses.

    Try to restrict the conversation to observation—not evaluation or judgment at this point. If students say something that is subjective, ask them to back it up with details, and only record the details at this point.

  3. Teacher asks the group: “What questions do you have about what you read?” Students respond with their questions about the text. Teacher records questions.

    Model by contributing your own questions, making sure to use questions of many different types.

  4. Teacher asks the group: “What is significant about this text?” Students respond with their analysis of the meaning or message of the text. Teacher records responses.

    Guide students towards the key themes: the insights, problems, or ideas that the text is primarily focused on.

  5. Teacher asks the group: “How does this text affect our work and our lives?” Students respond, teacher records answers.

    This question can be hard for students at first, so you will need to model with your insights on how this affects teaching—then they can contribute how it affects their work as learners, and the other aspects of their lives.

  6. Teacher and students participate in a discussion reflecting on the process of this Making Meaning protocol: their experiences and reactions.

    As part of this reflection you can ask: · What did you learn and how did you learn it? · How did this protocol affect your experience? · Can you imagine using this protocol to better understand texts in the future? · Why do you think the four questions chosen for the protocol can work to analyze any text?

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