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Thinking Strategies

What are the Thinking Strategies, and why are they so important?

We have found that students across our district, our state, and our nation can often read text fluently, but they have difficulties comprehending and thinking critically about what they read. The Thinking Strategies initiative is the result of years of research conducted by Ellin Keene, author of Mosaic of Thought and To Understand. Keene and her colleagues have spent years observing and analyzing the skills good readers use to navigate difficult text. As a result of this research, she developed a set of Thinking Strategies that could actually be taught directly to students to help them better comprehend text, both fiction and non-fiction:

  • Activating schema
  • Determining importance
  • Questioning
  • Synthesizing
  • Inferring
  • Activating sensory images
  • Repairing understanding

These approaches form the foundation for Thinking Strategy instruction at all grade levels. The degree to which teachers in our district have skillfully implemented these strategies and the impact they have had in our classrooms has been significant. Students at all grade levels are learning to think much more critically about what they read, and they are learning specific strategies to navigate difficult text. Our literacy coaches work closely with teachers at all grade levels to provide support for this work.


A collective goal in our district is to continue to build lab classrooms to provide observation opportunities focused on the Thinking Strategy work being implemented in classes. If you are interested in observing this work in action, please feel free to contact Mary Maddux, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction.

LUCY CALKINS, Founder & Director, Teachers College Reading & Writing Project