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The Teacher Tip

Teach with Generalizable Language

August 3, 2018

Adapted from Notice & Note by Kylene Beers and Robert E Probst. 

You know the saying about the choice between giving a man a fish and teaching him how to fish. We think some teachers do only give students a fish. In other words, they tell students an answer, or explain whatever it is the students don’t understand, rather than teach them how to figure it out themselves.

We want to teach our students to be alert for certain features as they read, to take responsibility for themselves for pausing and reflecting when they spot them, to own and ask a few potentially powerful questions.

Try this: use generalizable language in lessons for students to carry with them to the next book. Examples below:

  • I know that when authors show me a character acting in a way that contrasts with how I would expect, the author is showing me something about the character.
  • When authors show us contrast and contradiction, I ask myself, “Why would the character act this way?”
  • Repetition might give insight into the setting or a character or perhaps a symbol. You have to ask yourself, “Why does this keep happening again and again?”

To learn more about Notice & Note, visit 

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