The Teacher Tip

Identify the “It” in “I Don’t Get It”

May 17, 2017

Adapted from Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies, by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst


When students point to a part of a text and say, simply, “I don’t get it,” try pushing them to ask themselves, “What did the author think I already knew?” We have found that when kids look at confusing passages with that question in mind, they almost always identify what they need to do to clear it up. Talking about what they author thinks they already know helps them begin to identify solutions. When that happens, we can say, “Well, if the author thinks you know the meaning of a term, and you don’t, perhaps you need to look it up.” Or, “If the author thinks you know how to find the area of a circle, and you don’t, maybe you should turn back a page in your math text to find the formula.”


Identifying the “it” in “I don’t get it” gives students enough knowledge to be able to solve the problem on their own, or at least talk intelligently about the problem with another reader. Being able to clear up their confusion is a critical step toward becoming independent readers.

 To learn more about Reading Nonfiction: Notice and Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategiesand to download a sample chapter, click here.

The Heinemann Teacher Tip app is a free download.