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Lesson Plan

Exploring the Subtext Strategy: Thinking Beyond the Text

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Grades 2 – 4
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time One or two 45-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Sarah Dennis-Shaw

Avon, Massachusetts


International Literacy Association



From Theory to Practice



In a literary text, authors do not always tell readers what characters are feeling or thinking, and readers must instead make inferences to help them learn about the characters. Students use the Subtext Strategy to take on the perspectives of various characters in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and think beyond the written text. The teacher begins by previewing the cover of the story with students and asking them how Alexander is feeling based on the title and the illustration. Then, students listen to the first page of the story and watch the teacher model using the strategy. Students view the rest of the story online at Kennedy Center: StorytimeOnline in an adapted version and act out the role of an assigned character, expressing their interpretations of the characters' thoughts and feelings using visual cues from the illustrations and the information in the text.

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Clyde, J.A. (2003). Stepping inside the story world: The Subtext Strategy–A tool for connecting and comprehending. The Reading Teacher, 57, 150–160.

  • The Subtext Strategy involves using a story's illustrations to "imagine characters' thoughts"

  • This strategy helps students:
  • Make personal connections

  • Develop increasingly strategic inferencing skills

  • Empathize with characters

  • Understand and take on other perspectives
  • The Subtext Strategy works by having students look beyond the text and use the illustrations as cues to a character's inner thoughts (subtext). Students "become" the character and vocalize their perception of the character's feelings.

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