Updated: Jan 20, 2020
Seasoned, independent readers automatically process text by predicting, asking questions, connecting, visualizing, fixing mistakes, making inferences, analyzing, comparing, and responding to their own evaluation. These tasks are done without thinking, okay - now I'm going to connect this part of the story to my own life. This process is done because the story reminds you of an experience or something you once read elsewhere. You do not necessarily have to force yourself to visualize how the author is describing the setting or the characters or the situation or conflict they face - it's automatic. However, there are beginning readers and struggling readers who have no idea that reading is an active process. They have no idea that they should think through the text as they read it. All they see are words.
One of the most effective strategies to help beginning and struggling readers think through the text is by modeling these cognitive processes before, during, and after reading. It's called "think-alouds" or "read-alouds" and they're highly effective because readers can
listen to a book above what they can read independently, therefore, exposing them to higher vocabulary, elements of language, and complex sentence or paragraph patterns while listening to a seasoned reader think through the more complicated text. After showing readers how to think through a text, they can then apply those tools to their own reading.
How I Implement It
Essentially as I read a book aloud to a student, I stop and tell them what I'm thinking. The best way to begin this is by establishing a process so that your students become familiar with, and can tell the difference between, reading out loud and thinking out loud. I do it by holding the book up while I read and setting the book on my lap while I think. I also try to focus on one or two skills at a time. For example, Today I am going to show you how I connect to the text while I read it! There are many tools a reader needs in their comprehension toolbox, here are the skills I teach:
Before, During, and After Reading Skills to Model
Before Reading (Teachers goal: prepare students to read.)
Determine your purpose for reading this text/story.
Think about what you already know about the text.
What do you think will happen? What do you think the author will talk about?
What do you know about the author?
Ask questions you want answered.
During Reading (Teachers goal: Create independent thinking readers.)
Ask more questions as they come to you, answer the ones you can.
Add to what you know.
Visualize how the author describes the characters, setting, etc.
Connect the text to your own experiences, to events, to what you've read before.
Make inferences, or educated guesses, based on the information given, but not explicitly stated.
Fix errors, define unknown words, reread what doesn't make sense (self-monitor).
After Reading (Teachers goal: Teach readers how to respond to reading and build a sense of community.)
Ask new questions.
If you struggle to see what this looks like, stay tuned to my Instagram page where I'll offer a quick "how-to" on think-alouds. Otherwise, there are so many resources at your disposal. I encourage you to use one of these seasoned educators to learn more about this effective strategy.
Further resources at your disposal:
Read, Write, Think: Building Reading Comprehension Through Think-Alouds
Reading Rockets: "Reading Aloud to Build Comprehension"
If you have any questions, or if your reader struggles comprehending the text, contact me. It is my life's work to give readers the tools to overcome whatever struggle they face!
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