Chop and Sample: Discussions to Support Comprehension

By chopping up a text and sampling its passages through conversations, students collaboratively make meaning of what they read
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About This Strategy

In this strategy, students have a chance to practice close reading and evidence-based responses.  This provides teachers an opportunity to consistently monitor student comprehension and address common misconceptions through a text-rendering and guided discussion protocol. In this strategy, students will chop a text by identifying and annotating  a single short passage for each of 3 levels of understanding:   I get (a full understanding, no questions), I question (need more information, about half understanding), and I’m unsure of (less than a quarter of understanding, several questions). Students will then sample the same text, using quotes from their annotations during their reading,  in conversation to interpret and analyze their response. Through this discussion, the strategy gives teachers the ability to create differentiated learning pathways for students based on their response to the prompts. Even further, through guided discussion, students will be able to give voice, listen and respond to each other’s questions and needs, resulting in a thorough comprehension of a text. 

Implementation Steps

  1. Select a text related to students' current unit of study. Read and annotate the text for yourself. In your reading you should identify one passage ( and several backups) for each level of understanding - this will help you to anticipate potential student responses and participate in sections of the discussion rounds.

    • There are 3 levels of understanding for self-evaluative comprehension of the text, these are: 

      • I get ( a full understanding, no questions), 

      • I question ( need more information, about half understanding), and

      •  I’m unsure of ( less than a quarter of understanding, several questions).  

  2. Assign the selected reading as pre-work for your students.  Students should find their own passages for each level of understanding. The levels of understanding are:   

    • I get ( a full understanding, no questions), 

    • I question ( need more information, about half understanding), and

    •  I’m unsure of ( less than a quarter of understanding, several questions). 

  3. Share with students  how you expect them to make their annotations and track their responses. For example, teachers could create unique annotations such as; unique symbols, i.e. exclamation point, square, circle, triangle, etc. or text mark ups i.e. using highlight/underline,  for each level of understanding. Teachers could also use note taking methods like Cornell, Outline, Sentence, or Charting.  See the resource section for explanations of note taking methods  Also, give students enough time at the start of this activity to read/review the text and their answers. 

  4. Lead students through 2 rounds of guided discussion in mixed-proficiency groups. During the discussion, students should use a note-taker like the one in the resources section to track the conversation  about the passage they Question & are Unsure of, respectfully. Each student should speak in small groups for a total of 5 minutes . 

    • Each student has 3 Minutes to: 

      • Step 1: Read Aloud or  Reference their passage 

      • Step 2: Why they chose that passage 

        • Some guiding questions here could be: 

          • What did this passage make you think of 

          • What questions did this passage raise

          • Can you identify why this passage was challenging 

          • What do you need to know in order to understand 

          • How can we support your learning 

    • Other students in the group have 2 minutes to respond collectively:

      • Step 3: Students respond to the speaker’s needs & try to improve each other’s understanding 

        • In this step students should draw references, inferences and connections to the passages they identified as I Get

        • There should be a mix of students across each level of understanding so that what some students identify as I Get, what others  would identify as  I Question or I’m Unsure of should lead to the correct thinking 

  5. Monitor and track what students question and are unsure of; additionally, teachers should circulate during small-group discussions to track which groups are unable to  articulate accurate thinking that displays a thorough understanding of the text. 

  6. Address the concerns of highest value by highlighting the student or group that had a thorough  understanding of the text. Teachers could execute this step in a variety of ways; for example, as a share out to explain their thinking, paraphrasing what you heard, a show call, or simply giving praise. 

  7. Share the feedback you got from students and your plan to address any remaining misconceptions during the next class meeting.

EL Modification

Chop & Sample supports teachers in tracking EL students' comprehension of a text while  engaging students in all four domains of language practice: reading, writing, listening and speaking.  Students who are learning English will need additional linguistic supports in order to be active participants during the implementation of this strategy. 


  1. Provide English Language learners with a reference sheet that helps guide their thinking and prompts their participation in discussion such as a bi-lingual graphic organizer, mind map, sentence stems, etc. 

  2. Partner EL students with classmates who have built a strong relationship to increase their comfortability with a new text and discussion 

  3. Monitor EL students progress with frequent 1:1 check-ins during reading and small group discussions. Teachers should use these check-in’s to formatively assess and support students' understanding through question and answer. For examples of different types of questions visit the “type of questions” resource below

  4. Provide easy to understand content for students to practice their read-to-learn muscles. This content can also be made available in class during review and small group practices. For more information, you can use the Research Sources for EL Learners below. 

  5. Anticipate several passages that students might question or be unsure of and allow students to select which of them is the most challenging or engaging

Special Education Modification

Chop and Sample is a great strategy to use with Students with Disabilities because it provides access to complex text, but with the ability to discuss with peers to scaffold understanding. Similarly, students with disabilities are supported in the Chop and Sample strategy because they are able to self-select sections of the text that they understand, allowing them to experience and name success; they also self-select sections that they don't understand, allowing them to practice self-monitoring. 

Effective use of Chop and Sample requires a variety of skills, including executive functioning, reading, and verbal skills. In order to support students with disabilities who have difficulty in these areas, consider the following modifications.

Implementation Steps:

  1. Share content ahead of time with Special Education department or case managers to ensure adequate accommodations and modifications for students 

  2. Build small groups with an understanding of student reading and comprehension levels and build in extra scaffolding questions and activities. 

  3. Anticipate several passages that students might question or be unsure of and allow students to select which of them is the most challenging or engaging

Chop and Sample for Distance Learning

Distance learning is challenging for most K-12 students; it is also challenging for teachers as they look for unique ways to engage students in the Distance Learning space. However, the Chop and Sample strategy provides some additional benefits for teachers and students alike. Primarily, it will allow teachers to gain insight into their students' thinking. For students, it provides a time and space for structured conversations with peers, which are more important than ever as students face feelings of isolation. 

Implementation Steps:

  1. Assign students to mixed-proficiency breakout rooms to have their discussions. Explicitly teach students how to share their screens so that they can display their annotations for group members; this will help to make thinking visible and keep students focused on the task during breakout room time. 

  2. Since time during Breakout Rooms is largely student-led, consider assigning roles to groups. For instance, students could serve as a time-keeper, a secretary, and a spokesperson. 

  3. Consider using Tech Tools like Padlet; this will allow students to post their passages and synthesis from group discussions for all to see.

Related Lessons

  • This strategy can be used with my Reading for Main Idea Lesson  because this lesson introduces the skill of reading for main idea, as students read the text in this lesson, they can Chop & Sample to get them to understanding the Main Idea. 

  • This strategy can be used with my Juxtaposition Lesson because identifying and analyzing juxtaposition in a text can be challenging for any reader. As a result when students are given a chance to Chop and Sample a text, they can fully grasp the skill.

Culturally Responsive Learning Alignment

The title and steps of implementation for this process are taken from the music genre, Hip-Hop. In Hip-Hop, the chopping and sampling of other genres of music is critical to the creation of new sounds and meanings. In the same way, this strategy breaks apart a text and allows students a chance to make new inferences, interpretations and meaning. Additionally, a core value of Hip-Hop culture is community; this strategy is specifically designed to foster a sense of community and competency in the classroom through discussion.  Community and competency are developed by transforming learning into a group activity. Through the students sharing their thoughts, reflections and questions  with one another they become sort of a sounding board for each other and transform the classroom into a think tank. Even further, it makes the process of learning and understanding a team effort, with each person bringing their unique strengths and reflections to the table for a win - that is fully understanding a text. Hip-Hop as a genre and as a culture is not limited to students in ‘urban’ settings but as DJ Cool Herc, the Father of Hip Hop and the host of its first party, and its pervasiveness teaches us, Hip Hop can reach anywhere because it calls each person one to one as they are - and isn’t that the goal of true education, to reach students as they are?

In the resources section is a series of short videos from NPR that interview Hip Hop producers and takes viewers into the creation process of some of their most famous hits. These videos show the history, importance and impact of chopping and sampling music, which could translate and resonate well with your students.