How to Use Think-Alouds to Teach Reading Comprehension
Teaching students to carry on an internal dialogue with the author and text as they read is vitally important. “Talking to the text” significantly increases reader comprehension and promotes retention as well. However, this is not a skill acquired by osmosis. It requires effective modeling using the Think-Aloud strategy.
Good readers are adept at practicing many metacognitive strategies. That’s a big word that means “thinking about thinking.” Research shows that 50% of reading comprehension is based on what the reader brings to the text by way of prior knowledge and internal dialogue. Students who practice the self-monitoring strategies modeled by teachers using Think-Alouds have better reading comprehension than those who do not.
Here’s how to set-up an effective Think-Aloud with your students:
1. Select a short reading with a beginning, middle, and an end.
2. Tell students that they are about to enter a strange new world, that is the world of your thoughts as a reader. Tell them that your thoughts will not be the same thoughts as theirs.
3. Tell them that reading is not just pronouncing words; it is making meaning out of what the author has written. Tell them that they can improve their reading comprehension.
4. Begin reading the text for a few lines and then alter your voice (raise the pitch, lower the volume, or use an accent) to model what you are thinking. Stop and explain what the voice altering meant and keep this voice altering consistent throughout the Think-Aloud.
5. Keep your thoughts concise and on the focus of the reading. Don’t ramble on with personal anecdotes. Comment much more on the text than on your personal connection with the text.
6. Don’t over-do the amount of your Think-Aloud thoughts. Once every paragraph or two is about right. Don’t interrupt the flow of the reading and lose sight of the textual meaning.
7. Talk to the text and to the author.
8. Ask students if they think they understood the text better because of your verbalized thoughts than just by passively reading without active thoughts. Their answer will be “Yes,” if you have done an effective Think-Aloud.
9. Have students practice their own Think-Alouds in pairs.
10. Repeat Think-Alouds often with both narrative and expository texts.
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