An old favourite – Using Three Level Reading Guides to stimulate reading accuracy and higher order thinking

One of my tried and tested favourites is the Three Level Reading Guide (3LG).  The 3LG has been around for quite some time (see Morris & Stuart-Dore, 1984) but it still a highly relevant and engaging teaching tool.

Here is how it works:  Select a relevant written article (preferably about a topical issue) for students to read.  Create the 3LG by constructing a series of questions (approx. 4-5 each) for three different reading levels:

  • Level One:  literal comprehension (does the text say this?) / reading ON the lines
  • Level Two: interpretation (does the text give you this idea?)/ reading BETWEEN the lines
  • Level Three: defending your opinion (do you agree?)

You may like to read through the article together as a class first.  Students work in small groups to complete the 3LG.  For levels 1 and 2, all members of the group must agree on the answer (True or False) and the evidence from the text that supports the answer.  Students do not have to come to agreement for level 3 because this level is about them taking a position and defending it.  Discussions for level 3 can get quite out of control; see guidelines below.

Here is a 3LG that I used this week with my year 9 students who are currently working on Population Issues in the Asia-Pacific Region: 3LG Indias skewed sex ratio (attachment)


  1. Stop work after each level and take responses from different groups.
  2. When students are giving responses, everyone else has to be quiet!  I use a roving ‘microphone’ that will be whatever object I have handy at the time (a ruler, a pencil case, etc) and only the person holding the ‘microphone’ can speak.
  3. Provide time guidelines for students to complete each level to keep them on task.

I use at least one 3LG in most of my units of work. When used properly, the 3LG promotes reading comprehension, interpretation and analysis, and enables students to practice defending their own opinions with evidence.  A written article of appropriate length and difficulty accompanied by well-planned questions will ensure that this activity challenges students for the duration of a 45 minute lesson.


Morris, A. & Stewart-Dore, N. (1984), Three Level Reading Guide.  In Morris, A. & Stewart-Dore, N. (1990). Learning to Learn from Text. Effective Reading in the Content Areas. North Ryde, NSW: Addison-Wesley.

Suominen, K. & Wilson. A.  Three Level Guide.  2002. MyRead [online] retrieved on 8 November 2013 from

“Seven Brothers”, 7 April 2011, The Economist [online edition] retrieved on 8 November 2013 from


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