Directed Reading Thinking Activity (DRTA)

The Directed Reading Thinking Activity (DRTA) is a comprehension strategy that guides students in asking questions about a text, making predictions, and then reading to confirm or refute their predictions. The DRTA process encourages students to be active and thoughtful readers, enhancing their comprehension.


When to use: Before reading During reading After reading
How to use: Individually With small groups Whole class setting

Why use directed reading thinking activity?

  • It encourages students to be active and
    thoughtful readers.
  • It activates students' prior knowledge.
  • It teaches students to monitor their understanding of the text as they're reading.
  • It helps strengthen reading and critical thinking skills.


How to use directed reading thinking activity

Teachers should follow the steps below when creating a DRTA.

  1. Determine the text to be used and pre-select points for students to pause during the reading process.
  2. Introduce the text, the purpose of the DRTA, and provide examples of how to make predictions.

    Note: Be aware of the reading levels of each student, and be prepared to provide appropriate questions, prompts, and support as needed.

  3. Use the following outline to guide the procedure:

    D = DIRECT. Teachers direct and activate students' thinking prior to reading a passage by scanning the title, chapter headings, illustrations, and other materials. Teachers should use open-ended questions to direct students as they make predictions about the content or perspective of the text (e.g., "Given this title, what do you think the passage will be about?").

    R = READING. Students read up to the first pre-selected stopping point. The teacher then prompts the students with questions about specific information and asks them to evaluate their predictions and refine them if necessary. This process should be continued until students have read each section of the passage.

    T = THINKING. At the end of each section, students go back through the text and think about their predictions. Students should verify or modify their predictions by finding supporting statements in the text. The teacher asks questions such as:

    • What do you think about your predictions now?
    • What did you find in the text to prove your predictions?
    • What did you we read in the text that made you change your predictions?

Download DRTA blank template >

Watch: Before, During and After Questions

Students generate questions pertaining to a text to encourage deep processing and understanding. See the lesson plan.

This video is published with permission from the Balanced Literacy Diet. See many more related how-to videos with lesson plans in the Reading Comprehension Strategies section.

Collect resources

Language Arts

Use a DRTA with the children's book Dear Mr. Blueberry. See example >

Use a DRTA with the children's book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. See example >

Use a DRTA with the children's book David Goes to School. See example >

Differentiated instruction

For second language learners, students of varying reading skill, students with learning disabilities, and younger learners

  • The reading should be broken into small sections so that the students have time to think about and process information.
  • The amount of reading should be adjusted to fit the purpose and the difficulty of the text.
  • Writing may be included as part of the DRTA. As students become more comfortable with this strategy, have each student write predictions in a learning log or on a piece of paper. Then, in small groups, students can discuss their predictions and share their thinking processes. Next ask students to write summary statements about how their predictions compared to the passage.

See the research that supports this strategy

Jennings, C. & Shepherd, J. (1998). Literacy and the key learning areas: successful classroom strategies. Eleanor Curtain Publishing.

McKenna, M. & Robinson, R. (2002). Teaching through text: Reading and writing in the content areas (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Murdoch, K. (1998). Classroom Connections: Strategies for Integrated Learning. Eleanor Curtain Publishing.

Stauffer, R. G. (1969). Directing reading maturity as a cognitive process. New York: Harper & Row.


I work with Deaf/HH students and it's nice to have a simplistic format to use, but one that will also be follow much like the "Thinking Out Loud" idea....made me think about putting sticky notes in their stopping places so they know when to stop and what question to answer....

Great strategy....Actually my interest in that strategy led me to use as the strategy for my action research, to determine its impact in helping students to develop inferential and critical level of comprehension....

very helpful i understand much better than before im currently using this strategy in teachers' College thank you so much

At the Northern Virginia writing conference last year a presenter used this strategy to write about a piece and it was such an improvement on the five paragraph essay.

I used this strategy with my high school students today. It was amazing how those that usually have more comprehension questions, had less questions after reading today's project assignment.

I think itآs an important strategy .. I’m usin’ it now at the university

This article has really added a lot to my knowledge about reading strategies..I found it so helpful...thanks indeed.

this is my report all about and i really appreciate this strategy,i gain a lot!

We incorporate the DRTA into our developmental reading classes at the university level for pre-service teachers. It is a very important strategy to use at many grade levels.

I have never thought to break down reading. This is a simpler way for students to learn at any age. Even mine!

Never thought about breaking down reading like this. It is interesting to learn about the different strategies to use while teaching one how to read. DRTA, I think should be the very first stage taken when teaching how to read. Yes, I will be appling DRTA to my children, especially my youngest son who attends K this school year. This is something I can start now.

The thinking part where students check out to see if their predictions were right initiates lots of great discussion

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"Let us remember: one book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world." —

Malala Yousafzei