Guide to Using Ponder in the Classroom: Aligning With the Common Core


Unlike many critical reading tools that have a whole range of exercises to meet individual requirements of the common core standards, Ponder’s response-making scaffold is a single workflow that is easy to learn, fun to practice, challenging to master and powerful enough to support the entire range of ELA-Literacy standards.

Ponder’s response-making scaffold consists of 4 kinds of tags that support many of the standards below.

The first 3 are called Sentiment Tags that ask students to reflect on their own reactions to the text:

  1. Comprehension Tags (e.g. Syntax? I need more examples. I need a sense of scale.)
  2. Evaluation Tags (e.g. Fair point. I question the relevance.)
  3. Reaction Tags (e.g. Foul! Intrigued. Relieved)

The 4th is Theme Tags configured by the teacher (e.g. Here’s an example of Foreshadowing, Deductive Reasoning, Détente.)

Students respond to excerpts they identify from the reading with these tags creating a rich repository of structured data responses (as opposed to free-text annotation) that allows both students and teachers to filter responses across all of their readings by tag. This provides the whole class with a powerful view of how concepts and themes are connected not only within a single reading assignment but across text documents and videos over the course of the entire semester and across classes!

Within documents, the tag types are color-coded and are rendered as a heat map of highlights, calling attention to different passages, phrases or segments of the text or video document.


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.1 - Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

PONDER: Unlike discussion forums, Ponder students are not allowed to generally respond to a reading or video. Instead, students must identify specific phrases and sentences to respond to.


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2 - Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

PONDER: Teachers customize “Theme Tags” for their class that students practice applying to specific excerpts of text and video. (e.g. Where do characters in this reading exhibit the following personality traits? Hubris, Humility, Heroism)


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3 - Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

PONDER: Ponder’s sentiment “Reaction Tags” (e.g. Indignation, Dismay, Admiration) help students identify emotionally charged ideas and events in text/video.


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.4 - Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

PONDER: Ponder’s sentiment “Comprehension Tags” help students question and probe their own understanding of the text by asking them to identify words they’re unsure of (e.g. Syntax! or I’d like more examples of this…) as well as words with multiple meanings (e.g. Or…) or concepts they’re having a hard time appreciating the significance of because they lack context (e.g. I need a point of comparison…)


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.5 - Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

PONDER: Ponder has a special tag to prompt students to make connections between ideas, not just within a single document, but across multiple documents as well (e.g. I see a connection…) Additionally, all student responses are filterable by tag so teacher and student can see all of the excerpts across all of the reading having to do with a particular theme (e.g. Separation of Powers, Positive Feedback Loops, Double-Entendres)


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.6 - Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

PONDER: Ponder’s sentiment “Evaluation Tags” prompt students to consider author motivation and bias when evaluating text. (e.g. I encountered courage. I smell hyperbole. I question the simplicity.)


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 - Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

PONDER: Ponder’s response-making scaffold works on any document that students can browse to – text or video. This means students can truly do open-ended independent research on the web from blog posts and journal articles to Youtube and Vimeo videos.


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.8 - Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

PONDER: Ponder’s sentiment “Evaluation Tags” (e.g. I question the relevance, I need evidence, I see another option. I smell hyperbole. Fair point! To the point!) prompt students to question the text they’re reading and look for both strengths and weaknesses in reasoning rather than taking things on face-value.


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.9 - Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.

PONDER: Please see answer for CCRA.R.5


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.10 - Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.

PONDER: What Ponder asks students to do is deceptively simple and single-minded: Read the text. Watch the video. As you read and watch, identify excerpts that jump out at you and reflect on why they grabbed your attention and connect them to concepts you’re learning in class. While you reflect on your own understanding and reactions to a text, you see your classmates’ reflections and engage in dialogue with their ideas as well.

The key is that response-making in Ponder isn’t a completely open-ended affair where students are simply confronted with a blank textbox to fill up with words. Ponder responses are scaffolded with pre-loaded Sentiment and Theme tags that push students beyond their normal range of reflections. Ponder tags challenge students to think more deeply and with more nuance. (e.g. What is the difference between applying the following tags? “Good point! Fair point! Well-said!” When is someone being “Brave!” versus simply “Backed into a Corner With No Choice But To Do The Right Thing?”)

Practicing this level of thinking and reflection while reading and watching video, seeing how your classmates are responding to that same material, zooming out with Ponder’s heat maps and data filters to see how themes array themselves across all the material you’re learning and all the classes you’re taking, that is the foundation Ponder builds for “comprehending complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.”


Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

PONDER: With Ponder, students collaborate with their classmates, instructors and others during their information gathering process, providing and receiving peer opinions and feedback of research items or directly on student writing.


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7 - Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

PONDER: Students use Ponder sentiments and themes to gather their research into buckets addressing specific topics, concerns, questions, evidence, arguments for refutation.


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 - Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

PONDER: Ponder allows the gathering of evidence from any digital source students can browse to, text or video, and stores each individual excerpt with the student's and their peers' evaluation and classification of it and a link to the original document in a searchable, filterable personal database.


CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9 - Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

PONDER: The Ponder scaffold allows students to practice analysis and reflection through their foundation learning materials and the materials they gather during inquiry and research.



More generally, use Ponder...

To support close reading

Students use Ponder to make arguments in support of or against the subject of the writing, citing evidence through the excerpts they choose.  

To identify central ideas and main themes

Students flag key points in reading, using sentiments to identify and react to central themes.

To interpret key vocabulary

Students can flag terms they think are well used, poorly used, or that they don’t understand, which teachers can then address in class.

To analyze the structure of texts

Sentiments allow students to call out important excerpts in a text and examine their relationship to the text as a whole

To identify and analyze bias and the influence of points of view on writing

Students use sentiment to highlight and criticize examples of bias.

To evaluate a diversity of content

Ponder works on any written material online or hosted PDF. Online books, articles, blog posts, and other content can all be flagged and shared to the Class Feed for further discussion.

To evaluate arguments

Ponder sentiments are designed to help students evaluate arguments and make their own

To compare texts

Students can connect diverse texts to a single theme and analyze how they present the same ideas differently




Have more questions? Submit a request


Powered by Zendesk