Say Something Teaching Strategy | Facing History & Ourselves
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Teaching Strategy

Say Something

Encourage students to stop and engage with a text as they read with this comprehension strategy.


At a Glance

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Teaching Strategy


English — US


  • English & Language Arts




What Is the Say Something Strategy?

The Say Something 1 teaching strategy makes visible the oftentimes invisible comprehension strategies that proficient readers use to make meaning of the text.

Reading is incredibly complicated. We don’t learn it naturally; it is a modern human invention that imposes significant cognitive burdens on children at a young age. It is important for educators to understand that reading strategies on their own cannot compensate for a lack of vocabulary or schema, both of which students develop by being read to and reading across a wide range of texts in and outside of school. Successful readers also struggle successfully. They stop when they are confused and tap into a range of strategies to make sense of the text. Developing readers, on the other hand, keep reading without comprehending, rely on outside sources like a teacher or online summaries, or give up altogether.

In her chapter “Explicit Instruction in Comprehension,” literacy expert Kylene Beers lists these strategies for teachers and reminds teachers that they must be taught “explicitly and directly.”

  • Clarify
  • Compare and contrast
  • Connect to prior experience
  • Inference (generalization and draw conclusions)
  • Predict
  • Question
  • Recognize author’s purpose
  • See causal relationships
  • Summarize
  • Visualize 2
  • 1For a more detailed explanation of “Say Something,” see Beers, Kylene, When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do. (Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Publishers, 2003), 105-110.
  • 2Beers, 41.

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Lesson Plans

How to Use the Say Something Strategy

With the help of a colleague, student-teacher, or aid, model the strategy. Read a short passage out loud and then, using one or more of the strategies listed above, comment on what you read. You can either practice ahead of time so you are prepared to ask specific questions or make predictions or inferences. Or you can use a text that you haven’t read before for a more authentic experience. Then continue for a second paragraph or section. Alternatively, you can model with a student volunteer or create a script of a Say Something conversation to share with the class.

Divide the class into small groups and distribute the Say Something Sentence Starters handout. Read the instructions together, as well as the specific strategy in each box. Then have students follow the instructions on the handout to read a text together. Note that it can take a few tries for students to get comfortable with this routine, but the more they use it, the less they will rely on the sentence starters. Circulate to answer questions and help students become familiar with the routine. When you bring the class back together for a discussion, start by having each group share a comment, question, clarification, prediction, or connection from their discussion.

Students can use the Say Something strategy to engage with a text when they are reading on their own. They can use sticky notes to record their comments, questions, predictions, and connections, and then share ideas with their peers to review what they read and to clear up any confusion.

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