Using a Tri-Step Strategy to Build Comprehension in Historical Documents

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SWBAT: determine the central idea of a text and analyze its development between individuals, ideas, and events of the Pre-Colonial Time Period.

Big Idea

English Settlers vs. Native Americas: Assumptions Proven Factual

Lesson Introduction

Since this unit focuses on the comprehension of informational text, I chose to incorporate a strategy that will aid students in working through steps to “control information” housed in the historical documents. Students must understand that reading done in this class will involve a strategy that allows them to talk to the text while evaluating the assumptions made by authors to influence readers’ perceptions about events, individuals, etc. Today’s lesson is designed to introduce students to this process then indulge them in practicing the strategy with two pieces of informational text on William Bradford and the Mayflower Compact.

Bell ringer

10 minutes

I hook students into this lesson by having students list the processes they use when reading nonfiction text. Students will share their processes used as they are asked to read stories inside and outside the classroom. Responses from this activity might include: read the entire document, annotate the text, and skim the passage.

First Read of Bradbury's Mayflower Compact

10 minutes

Since I want to bring to life the simplicity involved in processing information in literature, students will skim their article and highlight all ideas associated with a journey in the text.

Students will be given two separate texts to read about events that led in making America. Because this lesson is being taught to a gifted class, the assigning of text can be as simple as left and right / front and back of the classroom. I purposely chose for students to read different texts so that our  classroom discussion will encompass assumptions made from various perspectives and engage all students in adding new information about “how” America was made during the times of the English settlers and Native Americans.

How to Comprehend Informational Text

20 minutes

Students will be guided on how to use a three-step process to "dig deeper" into the meaning of informational text. Notes will be provided for students to copy in their notebooks. After note taking, students will use the steps on the historical document read earlier in the lesson. 

This is my first time using this strategy to move students through comprehending informational text. I have selected this interaction with the text to be done cooperatively since literature provides room for interpretations that should be shared with others. Since there are varying levels of gifted students in the classroom, students are asked to work with their shoulder partner. The seating arrangement of students are homogeneous based on previous years' End-of-Grade scores so like-minded individuals are sitting together. Due to it being early in the school year, students have not established great rapport with each other. However, sitting them homogeneously will allow them to move simultaneously through the learning activities. 

Teachers may wonder why students have yet to share the information read in the selection prior to moving into more a critical process of evaluating and analyzing information in the text. I want students to focus more on the questionable assumptions presented in each article and not the reading of information from the text. The level two and three of the strategy move students from being a reader to being a critic of literature. Once students understand the intended audience of each selection, then they will see its influence on how information was compiled for the selection. In addition, students take these understandings and question whether they can believe an article based on what is learned about its society, people, etc. I will wrap up this lesson by having students share what was discovered about the making of America from the assumptions posed in their readings.

See how a students' paper looks after working through the three level process.

Exit Ticket

7 minutes

Students will wrap-up this lesson by answering the following question:

How did the assumptions made by the authors of each article influence your thinking about the people involved in the expansion of America?

Because this an interdisciplinary unit based on Social Studies lessons, it is essential that students understand what influences informational literature and how information studied in both classes develops their understanding of nonfiction text and histories. This exit ticket evaluates students understanding of the tri-step process and if the second and third levels were needed to bridge gaps in comprehension of informational text. 

Possible student answers included:

  • to ask more questions about the validity of the text
  • pay more attention to how the author formulates his bias towards a topic, etc.


It is important that a "skill or concept" drives the reading material and interaction that students have with learning activity of the day. I try to use a reading strategy to control the pacing of the lesson This helps keep students on task and supports high levels of engagement with each activity done throughout the lesson.