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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.

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of  the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies.Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, adaptable to various instructional settings, and simple to use. Get multiple choice reading assessments on two CDs, formative assessments, blending and syllabication activities, phonemic awareness and phonics workshops,comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages on eight CDs, 390 flashcards, posters, activities, and games. Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Perfect for ESL and Special Education students, who struggle with language/auditory processing challenges. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance. 364 pages

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