Saturday, February 15, 2014

Subtext: The Power of Interacting and Engaging with Text

How many times have you read something only to find that once leaving the text, the text itself became a distant memory? You are certain, that when you were in contact with it, you had applied the reading strategies you had been trained on to help you comprehend what you had just read. However, the feeling of disappointment set in once someone began asking you detailed questions that you couldn't quite seem to find the answers to.

As educators we teach our students to read closely – but do we? Are we really providing opportunities for students to interact and engage with text in a way that they are able to read and reread to “uncover layers of meaning that lead to deep comprehension?” According to the article Closing In On Close Reading by author Nancy Boyles, “If reading closely is the most effective way to achieve deep comprehension, then that’s how we should teach students to read.”

The use of Subtext, and its interactive features, allows students to direct their attention on the text itself empowering them to “understand the central ideas and key supporting details” as well as enabling them to “reflect on the meaning of words and sentences, the order in which sentences unfold; and the development of ideas over the course of the text" through its interactive features. This interaction and looking deeper into the text "ultimately leads students to arrive at an understanding of the text as a whole.” (PARCC, 2011, p.7)


Why Subtext?



With its ability to turn any book, document or web article into a digital classroom, Subtext allows teachers to "layer" in enrichment materials that "open up almost limitless opportunities to engage students and foster analysis and writing skills,” according their website. Its unique features such as built in discussions, highlighting and tagging and enhanced writing opportunities give teachers the tools they need to tailor the learning experience to each student and empower students with an engaging learning opportunity to closely read and reread to comprehend. 

So, I Have Subtext Now What?

This detailed video offered on the Subtext website is just one of the many webinars users can refer to when getting started. 

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Another way Subtext suggests getting started is by selecting an excerpt of text and asking a question that requires critical thinking.  In small guided reading groups, teachers can ask students to respond to this question directly in the app itself by highlighting the place they wish for their students to stop and respond. For example, you might want to ask, “what is the author trying to tell you as a reader? Highlight the part of the text that supports your thinking and add your “thinking notes." Then, encourage your students to respond to the responses of other classmates in an open discussion. As students reread the text again to dive into deeper understanding of the text, their classmates can add to the previous discussion extending their thoughts based on what was previously observed. 

Users Of All Ages!


While Subtext's features were originally designed around middle school and high school students, there is a growing number on elementary teachers who have embedded it into their classroom learning environment. Title I reading teacher Kelli Sims from Noble Crossing Elementary in Noblesville Schools has recently started using Subtext with her small groups of students. "Subtext has allowed my students to not only answer questions in the text, but also allowed them to go back into the text and highlight evidence to support their answers," she explains. "This has also helped my students to infer while reading." 

Google and Edmodo Logins


If your school uses Gmail or Apps for Education then your accounts are ready to go! This makes logging in simple and easy at the middle school and high school level if student accounts are turned on for student access. At the elementary level it is best to log into Subtext with Edmodo. Your Edmodo groups will be imported into Subtext as reading groups and students can use their Edmodo account information to log into the Subtext app. If you choose to use Edmodo you will want to make sure that you add the Subtext app to your Edmodo account.

Spotlight Features!

When students are understanding the text they are reading, they become more engaged in the text itself. Here is a list of some of the top Subtext features worth spotlight:

1. Collaborate in PDFs - Email yourself a PDF such as a leveled text or newspaper article, then "Open in Subtext and create a discussion. This feature not only allows a teacher to be more intentional with instruction but it also opens up the range of resources teachers are able to choose from when planning a lesson or activity. 
2. Suggested Common Core Assignments tied with any book or article - "Highlight and Tag" activities require students to tag passages with core concepts they have read and the "Show You Know" activity serves as a summative writing prompt. Teachers will have the option to use recommended activities designed by experts or simply add their own to customize around teaching and learning style.
3. Google Docs Integration - As students are reading, they are able to navigate back and forth to their google dive account with a simple tap. In the reading experience, students can copy and paste a selected piece of text from the reading passage into their google docs.

According to Boyles, "Its our responsibility as educators to build student's capacity for independently comprehending a text through close reading." "There's some controversy however," she explains "as to how we should go about doing this." (Closing In On Close Reading) Why not integrate Subtext into your daily learning environment. After all, Subtext allows teachers to provide additional time for students to reread independently as well outside the classroom.  Learning doesn't have to stop when teachers are still able to ask thought provoking questions and have them explain their thinking directly in the app. 


A first grade student uses Subtext to read and comprehend a leveled text during Guided Reading. By using the interactive voice feature students are able to speak directly into the microphone and convert their response into text. 

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