Embedded Readings

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14 thoughts on “Embedded Readings”

  1. John,
    When we read embedded versions in my class, there is an allotted time, and students choose the tier right for them, and then continue rereading at the higher tiers until the time is up. That is, all students have access to all versions of the reading. The easiest thing would be to have all versions on one assessment. Hardest thing would be to track who is succeeding at what version, and differentiate accordingly. Problem there is what to do about moving students to the next level of assessment, and whether or not they are hanging back because it’s easier.
    Do you think that if you included all embedded versions and corresponding questions on the same assessment that weaker students would be encouraged to complete it at their highest ability? Would some stronger but lazier students only answer the first tier easier questions? I suppose you could have a conversation with the fast processors about reading at the highest level if they seem to slack, but if the assessment is short enough anyway, they probably will put in the time to read at the highest level, right?
    This is where the idea of Marzano Proficiency Scales and more of a Standards-Based approach might help. Even though you won’t grade according to which embedded version (i.e. Ability), you could add a set of questions for each level of reading (disguised or not). It would be clear what level students were able to read based on those responses, but you could then grade them according to something holistic that takes into account the different tiers (e.g. my grading rubrics have “comprehends most details” as an A or 90…this can be achieved at any tier of the reading).

  2. why would you give a student something to read that they don’t understand?
    The points of embedded readings are reps and comprehensibility and making big texts manageable.

    1. Good point, Chris. The embedded readings are really about helping students gain familiarity with any new vocabulary structures so that they can read with ease a longer text including that vocab. Perhaps we shouldn’t look at a version of an embedded reading being easier and another version being harder, but as a reading input exercise to get reps in on unfamiliar structures.

  3. Hmm. I wonder if we are working with different definitions of Embedded Readings? Every presentation I’ve attended and/or downloaded concerns distilling a text down to its most basic form.
    Embedded Readings are versions (usually 3) of a text increasing in detail from the first tier to the last. The point of these is so that slow processors are able to participate in class discussions by reading the lower tier (basic details), while the fast processors are able to participate in class discussions by reading the higher tier (most details). Every student can understand the text (just at varying degrees of detail).

  4. Well, you have just summed up the beauty of Embedded Readings: They have many uses and many purposes.
    I’ll separate some of the issues addressed.
    Honestly, Embedded Reading was not created for assessment purposes. Like most things it can be utilized as an assessment tool, but it was originally designed to help students to successfully read texts that the students perceived to be too difficult (when the teacher knew otherwise!!)
    Then we quickly realized that it actually encouraged reading, which increases acquisition and sharpens reading skills. (We realized many other things as well, but I’ll say more about those later.)
    So if I had to sum up the top ways in which ER is beneficial, I’d list these:
    1. Creates texts and opportunities for successful reading comprehension in the target language.
    2. Allows for a variety of opportunities to connect students to the text in meaningful ways.
    3. Provides for extensive exposure to comprehensible text.
    4. Encourages readers to read (and to re-read) for detail.
    5. Scaffolds readers towards the successful reading of longer, more complex texts.
    6. Provides immediate opportunities for differentiation, as needed.
    I purposely put them in that order. :o)
    with love,

  5. We almost always start with students reading the simplest version of the text. However, they are not always a pared down version of an original. The pared down or “Top Down’ version is one option.
    The other is to start with the kernel of the story and build up….more on the two ways to create a reading here:
    Bottom Up:
    Top Down:
    Then, once a reading exists, the teacher must decide how to implement it in the classroom/curriculum.
    Magister P, Your description of using a reading in class is certainly one option. It does allow readers of various abilities to all read/understand/discuss ONE text, one time. It does allow the teacher to differentiate for different reading levels and acquisition stages. However, it does not develop reading skills or assist in language acquisition.
    In order to help students to grow as readers and to grow in the language, the students should ALL be reading several versions of the text….beginning with the most basic.
    Beginning with the “core”or the kernel of the reading allows everyone to get a deep understanding of the most important points and/or receive transparently clear messages from the text.
    Here some ideas about using the base reading with students:
    Each succeeding level not only adds details but also language. The language that is inserted into the succeeding levels is varied. Some is repeated structures (for reps), some is rephrasing, some is challenging (keeps faster processors engaged), some is simple (continues to provide success for others) . “Good” readers often read too quickly and miss vital information/nuances. “Poor” readers give up too easily. This way both types of readers grow and are still successful.
    There are a few ‘tricks” that keep students from getting bored (or from thinking that they are getting bored) reading several versions of the “same” text.
    1. Make sure that each version adds interesting details/information.
    2. Do a different activity with each version of the text. Illustrate, act, vary questioning techniques, use sound effects, screen vs. paper, parallel characters, etc. “Reading” all of the versions the same exact way is not engaging.
    3. Save the best for last. Keep a vital piece of information or surprise for the last reading…they will look forward to it!
    Your questions are excellent. Here are some short posts that will help:
    The Practical Question
    The Philosophical Question
    These posts will give you a number of ideas on how to use Embedded Readings :
    with love,

  6. (I don’t know why it is saying that my comment is awaiting moderation……Laurie)
    The teacher CAN create and scaffold the readings as s/he chooses:
    Example 1: Nearly all vocab/structures are familiar but “story” is new. Having different versions allows for repetition, variety, encourages reading stamina, supports acquisition. (Chris’ point above)
    Example 2: Most of the vocab/structures are familiar but a selected number of vocab/structures are new to the readers. The repeated exposure to the new structures is a great introduction/acquisition enhancer. This is almost ‘classic” TPRS in written form. Repetition and circling (including questions) can be built right into the reading. By the end of all of the versions of the reading, many students are highly comfortable with the new vocab/structures. (Sean Lawler’s point above)
    Example 3: The versions of the story build with details and length to scaffold students towards a more complex text, often from literature. This creates a venue where literature can actually become accessible to readers of different levels. (Magister’s point above)
    Example 4: The teacher begins with and/or continues throughout the readings to incorporate students’ ideas, language, suggestions and storylines. It can be based on student writings, a class-created story etc. This creates a highly personal and very compelling set of documents / stories that students love to read.
    There are even more….but these are the ones that most folks are utilizing.
    with love,

  7. I think, and I could be wrong, but the way that John and Magister are also using Embedded Readings is to utilize them as part of a SSR/FVR reading program. I think that this a great way to incorporate ERs and I have a basket of them in my room for that purpose as well….alongside the novels, graphic novels etc that kids chose from. The most popular ones have been created from students free writes after watching a great movie like Rudy in the target language.
    with love,

  8. Now…..as measurements/assessments. I know of one school district that has adopted embedded readings as part of their final exam. Everyone does all of the reading/answering of questions and goes as far on the test as time allows. The teachers then evaluate students’ reading levels based on how well they answer questions on the ever-increasing difficulty of the readings.
    I believe that we have to very cautious about this. It is difficult to create a very good reading test in a second language. Teachers become very divided over the types of questions (L1/L2, Mult. choice vs fill in etc.) to use. I’m not convinced that ANY test really identifies reading levels and reading skills because reading is such an incredible complex activity.
    I believe that the true litmus test of a reading is if the reader will keep reading it, and understanding it, it must be at the right level.
    Having said that, I’ll throw my truly heretical belief at you all:
    I believe that testing reading does nothing but poison the fountain.
    It’s deadly. It dooms our programs when we test what students read. Kids do not want to be tested on what they read. It defeats the entire purpose of getting them to read in the first place.
    Heresy, I know.
    And sadly, from a more “scientific” viewpoint, Embedded Reading really is ‘ideal’ for identifying where students are on a reading scale and for measuring progress. If I didn’t know that it was lethal I’d probably get pretty excited about it myself. (I”m a geek.)
    Admins go berserk over the possibilities too, which, if we need administrative support, can be a very good thing.
    I would just ask that we first ask a few important questions:
    with love,

  9. WHAT are the goals of our language program?
    WHAT do we want to encourage in the hearts, minds and souls of our students with our curriculum?
    HOW can Embedded Reading help us to achieve our goals and to encourage our students?
    and then, please, may we proceed with caution and with love to do right by our students.
    If we are using anything for our own interests, or in the interests of the department, instead of in the best interest of our students, it will eventually have little value….no matter how hard we worked to create it or how academically powerful it may seem.
    There are many ways to use Embedded Readings….and it is one of the things that I love about them…..and why we created the blog to share them. They only way to do it “wrong” is to not pay attention to what you want to use them for, and why.
    with love,

  10. PS….John…any questions, any time!! You are right..the more minds the better. Email me also if you’d like. I’m going to be in a number of different locations this summer, if I’m nearby I”ll buy you a beverage and we’ll chat!
    with love,

  11. Thank you Laurie, and everyone, for getting this discussion going in some very helpful ways. I’m looking forward to the arrival of Summer for some serious introspection.
    Stolz says:
    “why would you give a student something to read that they don’t understand?”
    Well, let’s just say that that’s what we as Latin teachers have done for centuries now. We are in the business of giving students texts that they cannot understand. Why? Because we went to grad school and spent entire days on paragraphs, years on reading lists, struggling for hundreds and hundreds of hours to arrive at the lowest Bloom level of simply establishing meaning for ourselves. But it made us better people, more disciplined. This is why the Victorians made their children do the grammar grind.
    And, Laurie, your words of caution regarding assessing reading, that’s also a provocative one for us Latin teachers, because, besides memorizing grammar rules endings charts, and vocab out of context, that’s what we do. We test reading. We test students’ ability to read (=translate) readings that are too difficult for them. That’s what we’ve always done.
    I’m just holding on to finish my year, so I’ll be on this list pretty infrequently until the 12th, but I’m looking forward to more discussion, and lurking in spare moments in the meantime.

  12. For me with Chinese, embedded readings also do something wonderful: they give the students multiple opportunities to comprehend characters in a familiar context, but with increasing details or changes as they read another version.
    So, it’s repetition without becoming overly repetitious feeling. This is a huge benefit for Chinese.
    I would like to do much more with this embedded reading because of both benefits (reps and not exactly the same each time… but lower prep needs because the core is the same each round). I often read level 1 together with the students and then give them a level 2 to use for something else more independently, but with support as needed (ex: pull out 8 sentences and make a comic out of it). Level 3 is for faster processors.

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