Signposts: Text Features for Deeper Understanding

Traditionally we teach students about text features such as the importance of titles, characters’ names, setting, and the opening lines. In the book Notice & Note: Strategies for Close Reading, Kylene Beers and Robert E Probst identify additional text features, signposts, that help students read literary texts with deeper understanding. These signposts represent what students are to do as they read, notice something in the text and then stop to note what it might mean. As students learn to notice these signposts there is an increase in their use of comprehension processes: visualizing, predicting, summarizing, clarifying, questioning, inferring, and making connections.

Signpost Criteria

  • The feature must be noticeable, having some characteristic that causes it to stand out from the surrounding text.
  • The feature is evident across the majority of books.
  • The feature offers something to readers who notice and then reflect on it to help them better understand their own response, their own reading experience, and their own interpretation of the text.


  1. Contrasts and Contradictions
  2. Aha Moment
  3. Tough Questions
  4. Words of the Wiser
  5. Again and Again
  6. Memory Moment

Anchor Questions

To develop independent readers, the students must have a repertoire of a few useful questions which they apply while reading any text. Students must take ownership of these questions. We want students to develop reading habits and behaviors. Beers and Probst have developed one anchor question for each signpost.

  1. Contrasts and Contradictions: Why would the character act (feel) this way?
  2. Aha Moment: How might this change things?
  3. Tough Questions: What does this question make me wonder about?
  4. Words of the Wiser: What’s the life lesson and how might it affect the character?
  5. Again and Again: Why might the author bring this up again and again?
  6. Memory Moment: Why might this memory be important?

Signpost Lesson Example

When teaching the signposts, think about starting with Contrasts and Contradictions and progressing down the list to end with Memory Moment. But do what makes sense with what is being taught.

  1. Explain the signpost and the anchor questions.
  2. Demonstrate by reading aloud a text for which the students have a copy. Point out what you saw that caused you to pause, ask the anchor question, and share your thoughts.
  3. Continue reading, stopping at the next instance and asking students to talk in pairs about the anchor question. Share some responses with the class.
  4. Continue reading asking students to identify the signpost and discuss the anchor question.
  5. Finish reading and ask students to identify the most significant example of the signpost for the entire text, discuss the anchor question, and report to the class.
  6. Ask students to watch for this signpost while reading independently, marking those that they find, and recording a response to the anchor question.


You can assess their growth by listen to their talk over time and reading their signpost logs while asking yourself if they…

  • Identify the scene that made them think of a signpost?
  • Explain why they think that scene represents that signpost?
  • Move to the anchor questions with or without prompting?
  • Offer more than one speculative answer to the anchor question?
  • Remain open to other speculative answers suggested by classmates?
  • Use evidence from the text to support their answers?
  • Connect this signpost to others in other parts of this novel?

In Conclusion

The goal is not to search for and collect signposts as in a scavenger hunt, but to be alert for significant moments in the text. We want to foster readers who pay close attention, reflect, and who are willing to consider other responses to a text. The lessons in the book target literary text, but with modifications they can also be used with expository texts.

Additional Resources

1 thought on “Signposts: Text Features for Deeper Understanding

  1. Pingback: Signposts: Text Features for Deeper Understanding | Confessions of a Student Teacher

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