EDU 6162: Language and Literacy in the Middle and High Schools

Strategy Presentation (May 23d, 2012)


    (Author; Place and Time; Prior Knowledge; Audience; Reason; the Main Idea; Significance)


Description of the strategy: The APPARTS reading strategy for document-based questioning and analysis was developed by the College Board for use in pre-AP and AP Social Studies curricula (History, Government, etc.) to address concerns about the limited access of many underserved student populations to rigorous, pre-AP level curricula that emphasize analytical approaches to reading primary source material ("Improving Student Comprehension: Primary Sources." The AP Vertical Teams Guide for Social Studies. The College Board (2001): 15-17 and Schick, N, & Hierl, W.  2007. AP United States History: a Teacher’s Guide:

APPARTS is the acronym for:


-          Who created the source?

-          What do you know about the author? 

-          What is their point of view?

Place and Time:

-          Where and when was the source produced? 

-          How might this affect the meaning of the source?

Prior Knowledge:

-          What do you already know that would further your understanding of this source?


-          For who was the source created?

-          Does this affect the reliability of the source?


-          Why was this source produced at the time it was produced?

The Main Idea:

-          What is the source trying to convey?


-          Why is this source important? 

-          Does it effectively address the question: “so what?”

The APPARTS strategy uses a series of prompts or questions to assist readers in getting at the heart of a source’s language, meaning, significance, and reliability.   It is an ordered method to scaffold the introduction of essential critical reading techniques, such as self-questioning; application of background knowledge; comprehension monitoring; searching for information; and synthesizing multiple texts (Guthrie & Davis, 72-73).  Responses to the APPARTS prompts are typically written down on a template/worksheet or on a separate sheet of paper.  Ultimately, this strategy is designed to help students articulate their own understandings of a text, as well as bigger issues concerning its purpose, significance, and meaning.

The strategy can prepare students for activities like small group or open discussion, more formal tasks such as preparing a written analysis of a source and the integration of source material into a larger project or essay, or even creative and original activities like personal responses to a document and the dramatizing/visualizing of key issues it contains. 

The APPARTS method can be applied to just about any textual source, including those in visual or digital media form.  It can also be used at many stages during the reading process: for example, during pre-reading as a sort of anticipatory guide, in active reading as guiding questions for comprehension and analysis, and in post-reading as ordered notes for a larger project, like a test or paper.

Directions for APPARTS:

1.      Identify the “big picture” of introducing a particular text into the lesson.  Explain the reason why it is being used, and its impact on the main ideas or concepts being explored.

2.      Distribute print or digital copies of source material and APPARTS chart to the class. 

3.      The first step to introduce this critical reading strategy into the classroom is to model its use in understanding a text, since students might be accustomed to more literal reading practices.  It is important for the teacher to reiterate that the goal is not simply to read in linear fashion (i.e. reading on the lines).  Critical reading unveils a text's larger purpose: one that students can internalize and apply in context (reading between the lines), with outside information to draw upon as a frame of reference (reading beyond the lines). 

4.      Then the APPARTS method and text can be introduced.  In the first, “I do” stage, a teacher may select a sample text or passage to demonstrate specific features or aspects that address the main components of APPARTS.  This does not have to be a complete process, since the focus is on introducing the strategy.

5.      Next, in the “we do” phase, students and teacher use the strategy together, possibly to complete the initial modeling exercise, or with new/additional material to be studied with APPARTS.  At this point, students should have the opportunity to assess the effectiveness of the strategy. 

6.      In the final phase of strategy introduction, students should be able to fill out the APPARTS questions whether alone, with a partner, or in groups, and demonstrate why certain evidence from the text lends support to their answers.  This process can be scaffolded to move from a “pair-share” to a small/whole group discussion of the text.

Note: APPARTS was not originally designed as a test-taking strategy, particularly in situations when a variety of sources are to be analyzed in a timed setting (think AP).  Instead, the routine practice of the APPARTS strategy should help students develop certain “habits of mind” that they can integrate into their own analytical approaches to understanding text (Hieri, 2010). 

A sample template for the APPARTS chart is provided with this handout.  Adapted from:

Primary Source Analysis: A Sample Template for APPARTS

Title of Document:                                                                                                     



Who created this? What do we know about the author? What might influence their opinions?



Where and when was it created? 


Prior Knowledge

What do we know about where this was created? What have we learned about this topic or society that may be relevant?



Who is the intended audience? How might they receive this? –  use quotes to support your claims.


Reason for Creation

What is the purpose of this document? Read between the lines, and support claims with a quote.


The Main Idea

(Support with quotes!)



How does this relate to the big picture? What can it tell us?





APPARTS Bibliography:

Guthrie, J.T. & Davis, M.H. (2003). Motivating struggling readers in middle school through an engagement model of classroom practices. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 19(1): 59-85.

Hieri, W.  “Apparts Strategy.  Origins and Implementations.”  Ask a Master Teacher.  Accessed May 22, 2012.

"Improving Student Comprehension: Primary Sources." (2001).  The AP Vertical Teams Guide for Social Studies. The College Board: 15-17

Schick, N, & Hierl, W.  (2007). AP United States History: a Teacher’s Guide:  Accesed May 18th, 2012. 




 - Jessica, June 2012

carla dash,
May 24, 2012, 11:31 AM