Bookmark Technique: A Teaching Essential

Maureen McLaughlin

I imagine that all of us at some point have asked our students to read a text in preparation for discussion in our next class. I also think that many of us have had the experience of facilitating wonderful exchanges of ideas among our students. We may also have known the disappointment of a discussion that just fell flat. I think one reason for the latter is that there are times when students who are asked to read outside of class simply choose not to read the designated text.

When I was writing the very first Guided Comprehension book, this was a point of concern. I wondered what we could do to encourage students to read in preparation for class discussion. I contemplated what we could teach to help motivate students to read when working independently. I also considered what we could do that would entice the students to engage with text–whether in class or outside of it. Bookmark technique emerged as one method that accommodates all three of these concerns (McLaughlin & Allen, 2009).

Bookmark technique is a strategy that has students monitor their understanding and make evaluative judgments about aspects of text. Typically employed during and after reading informational text, it provides support to guide students’ thinking.

There are four bookmarks: Bookmark #1 focuses on what students found most interesting. For Bookmark #2, students choose a vocabulary word they think students in the class need to discuss. When completing Bookmark #3, students select an illustration, chart, map, or graph that helped them understand what they read.  For Bookmark #4, students note something in the text that they found confusing. As an alternative mode of response, students can also sketch their responses when using bookmark technique.

At the bottom of each bookmark, students indicate the page on which the information appears and the paragraph in which it is featured. In the bookmarks shown in the figure, Ray, a middle school student, shares his responses to an article he read while researching Mars for a class project on the solar system. The text, which appears on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration website (, provides detailed facts about Mars, including a general description, the source of the planet’s name, and information about its polar ice caps, volcanoes, canyons, and weather.

When students complete the bookmarks, they each have four pieces of information to contribute to discussion. Students appear to be motivated by the opportunities bookmark technique offers to express their thoughts about what they find most interesting, to choose a vocabulary word to discuss, to select a visual support, and to explain what they found to be confusing. The finished bookmarks are also evidence that the students have read the assignment.

Students share their completed bookmarks in either whole-class or small-group discussions, contributing to socially constructed meaning. Bookmark Technique is a strategy application we can teach our students that will help them to comprehend as they make personal choices about the text they are reading.

Maureen McLaughlin is a professor of reading education at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania in East Stroudsburg, PA. She is the author of the best-selling Guided Comprehension series, and also the 2013-14 President of the International Reading Association.


McLaughlin, M., & Allen, M.B. (2009). Guided comprehension in grades 3 – 8 (2nd ed.). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.