What does it really mean?

I have been working with a group of 5th graders on using STP (Stop, Think, & Paraphrase) in combination with Sunday Cummins Explode & Explain strategy. Here is another article about it. Explode & Explain. A version of STP is really embedded into Explode & Explain when you think about it.

A common way I see STP being used is shown below.

I alter this method. I do not ask students to cover up the text. I think it is essential for students to see the words and their notes when talking them, to help them paraphrase. Also, students may be able to pull out and use keywords/phrases to intermix within their paraphrasing, but still not truly understand the writer’s intended meaning. I want students to be able to use STP to help them stop and focus on unknown vocabulary that is helpful for readers to figure out what the writer wants them to understand. We worked on figuring out the meaning of unfamiliar words, as we explode and explain. That is why STP alone is not enough for a lot of students.

Using Explode & Explain prepares students for the next step of paraphrasing. I want students to look at the text and to use their annotations and notes to refer back to. This is important for ELL students or any student who needs support with vocabulary. Students are very hesitant to express out loud what they are thinking a word might mean. However, when I ask them to slow down and explode and explain certain parts of the text it starts to happen naturally. Faces light up, I hear an “Oh, I get it”.

Another important component of STP is helping students understand that they need to self-monitoring for meaning as they read. With the striving readers I work with as a reading specialist, I have to really work hard to help students understand how to read with an intent to grow their intellect, academically and emotionally. They often want to read just to finish and want the act of finishing to be the accomplishment.

How often should students “stop, think & paraphrase”?” How often depends on the individual student/group, and the text. I do not always think set stopping point need to be required. Students have to learn to do the self-monitoring work for themselves. Self-monitoring brings authenticity to the strategy and helps the students gain some agency when they figure out when and where to pause and apply it when reading independently. They are not just following steps mindlessly.

For my lessons with this guided reading group, I chose the places we would stop and use a combination of the two strategies. This decision was more about saving time and limiting the cognitive load for this group, so we could focus on learning the strategies.

I started this journey by explaining and reiterating how these strategies can be done in our heads as we read, or in a written format, digitally, or on paper. I want them to know that my hope is for them to internalize the strategies and to be able to use them in their head after they become comfortable enough with them. I also try to keep in mind that students may be able to use these strategies in their heads with some texts and not with others. The content of the text and the student’s knowledge will affect this. I am the same way as an avid reader.

I am also using these strategies to help them carry on a conversation about their reading and apply what they are learning to other situations. We discuss using the notes we create when Exploding & Explaining to help us then paraphrase the information. I model paraphrasing using my notes and then ask them to do the same with a partner. I stress speaking in complete sentences that can easily be transferred into writing. I emphasize with older students that what and how we speak and write affects how others see us. We want what we say and write to make sense not only to ourselves but to others as well. We do a lot of oral rehearsing because of this and I provide sentence stems when I feel the group/student needs it.

Below is a sample of one student’s work that I gave some support with figuring out the meaning of some words. I took a few sentences from the article The Amazing Penguin Rescue by Lauran Tarshis that we had been reading, and used a note-taking app to project it. We worked on the first sets of sentences together. Students worked on the finals sentences on their own with me providing support when confering with them. They will use the notes to help them discuss and write about the article.

For this article I chose to have the students write about the challenges faced by the penguin and the humans trying to save them. When rehearsing for the writing I had planned to use a sentence frame like this one:

____________ was challenging for the humans/penguins because ______________

These students started planning without the need for it, however.

Hope this provides you with something to think about and reflect on.


Types of Details


I have recently started having my 4th and 5th grade reading students think about the types of details they are reading in Non-fiction texts. We have done a lot with coding a text and taking notes, but have not tackled what the types of details are within texts.

Sunday Cummins introduced this idea in a new way in her book Nurturing Informed Thinking: Reading, Talking, and Writing Across Content-Area Sources. I have also had conversations with her about this in some PD sessions of hers I have been in.

Types of text details may include: 





historical connection


real-life example




You can probably find a few more types, but this list works with most texts.

I have to admit, I was hesitant to try this at first. I think it might have been that, this is something that can lead readers right into identifying a texts structure. There are some similarities between types of details and a texts structure. Over emphasizing the need to find a texts structure is something that I have grown to have a problem with. Many states and districts have chosen to address this within their state and local assessments. They have made the idea of identifying a texts structure something more important than it is, all in the name of addressing standards. When thinking about text structure I feel it should be used to help readers deepen their understanding of the texts meaning. It should not become a huge focus of itself, with lots of test questions requiring a reader to label a texts structure correctly. The end goal should not be that our readers have to identify a texts structure correctly, every time they read. We should not be assessing a readers ability level by identifying a texts structure correctly.

It is the thinking a reader does while considering a texts structure, that is the key. Much like the thinking a reader does when previewing a text. Yes, it is helpful to consider a texts structure when trying top open your mind and prepare for what you are reading or are about to read, but you can understand a text without identifying its structure. When we try to turn the thinking processes of reading into concrete testable items, reading is turned into something it is not, and it becomes something not very engaging.

Anyway, I really had to make myself open up to the idea of noticing the types of details as being helpful. I am so glad I did, however. I think the fact that I was doing some planning and teaching some lessons with Sunday, helped motivate me.

As I introduced students to noticing the types of details a writer uses, I did so focusing on making meaning and text understanding, not as a separate task. I often asked students to consider “what information, opinion, or idea the writer is trying to open our minds to in a particular sentence?” Considering types of details and a texts structure must always be linked back to making meaning and text understanding, not become a separate task readers supposedly do as they read. It is the act of slowing down enough as a reader to consider what a writer wants from the reader that is important. 

Text Details

Cummins, S. (2018). Nurturing Informed Thinking: Reading, Talking, and Writing Across Content-Area Sources. Portsmouth, NH. Heinemann.

My students started noticing and considering locations more often after I introduced this idea to them. Often times locations are very important to a texts understanding. Students have many ideas and have be exposed to information about many locations across the world they could be and should be making connections to and thus inferences about. They started noticing when the writer was describing something as fact or opinion more consistently. They began slowing down to consider a historical connection they had heard. I taught them to layer this with the the information the author just told them. This helps them add a depth to their understanding. Students were understanding more and engaging more with the texts after I introduced the idea of types of details to them.  They naturally started discussing the structure of the text, or structures I should say. A text is often written in multiple structures, depending on what the writer is trying to say or share. I then asked them to consider what the texts structure might be, like they are asked to do on an assessment. We completed the meaning work first.

By the way you can fairly accurately figure out a texts structure by looking at headings and the layout of a text or other text features, while skimming it. I have seen students asked to find a texts structure in this way before. While doing this however they are not considering what the writer wants them to understand, they are not adding depth to their thinking and building upon what they know. Students usually miss the real meaning of the text when doing this, but often get the structure question right on a assessment.

I could see falling into the same trap with types of text details. Keep the focus of reading instruction, on meaning.  When students are engaged in the meaning of the text and not initially reading to find an answer for a text question they understand more.

In her book Sunday goes on to discuss how comparing details between 2-3 texts over the same topic is very useful.

Check out Sunday’s Blog. Link is on the right side of this page.

What are your thoughts?  Keep Reflecting! Troy

Ideas from Sunday

I was lucky enough to attend a wonderful PD session today with Sunday Cummins. I plan to blog about several of the take always I got from the session over the next few weeks. This helps me process through the information and reflect on it. Hopefully someone else will get something out of it as well.

I work in a district that has supported reading instruction exceptional well. We have implemented Reading Work shop and continue to use Guided Reading as well. We use the Fountas & Pinnel Benchmark Assessment system as one way to access reading.


The session was on working with transitional readers using a lesson plan taken from Jan Richardson’s book: The Next Step Forward in Guided Reading.

Next Step

Transitional Readers are students reading at levels J-P.

When conferring with students as they read during a guided reading lesson Sunday shared that she focuses first on-

1st Monitoring/decoding

2nd Fluency

3rd Comprehension

If they showing competence in one area move to the next.

I think this makes sense because monitoring/decode and fluency both effect comprehension.

When moving to check comprehension when conferring we focus on using Fountas & Pinnell’s Systems of strategic actions:


Checking Understanding on:

                                        1st – Thinking Within the Text

                                        2nd – Thinking Beyond the Text (inferring)

                                        3rd – Thinking About the Text (authors craft)


When conferring with students who are in the writing phase of the guided reading lesson focus on-

1st– meaning 

            2nd – syntax (language structure)

            3rd – Spelling

I say address capitalization and punctuation if time as you see fit to meet the kids needs, but remember that when we ask students to write about what they read we are doing it as a way for them to show understanding of the text and to extend that understand at the Transitional stage.

When writing always make sure you provide students time to plan their writing with you and then orally rehearse it. Students who need guided reading are often readers who lack good language skills. 

Please contact me if you have any thoughts or questions!

Check out Sunday’s blog at: https://sundaycummins.wordpress.com/



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