Successful readers have a variety of comprehension strategies in their reading "toolbox" that they can rely on during independent reading that help to secure a deep textual understanding, and ensure reading enjoyment. Teachers can promote these strategies and encourage a love of reading through a variety of Think Alouds with their students. (Davey, B. (1983). Think-aloud: Modeling the cognitive processes of reading comprehension. Journal of Reading, 27(1), 44-47.) Two important things teachers need to do during a Think Aloud are share their personal reading selections, and model behavior during read alouds in class for interpreting text.
Book talks in the K-6 classroom are an effective strategy for promoting reading and allowing the students to share their comprehension of the texts they are currently reading. A great way to support this activity is to have the teacher share as a Think Aloud with the class. You can start by bringing what you are currently reading into the classroom. Share the magazine you are reading for enjoyment, the novel that is part of your book club, the home improvement text you are using to master a new paint technique, or the professional book focused on a new teaching strategy. Explain to the students why you chose the book, what you've learned, and what comprehension strategies you've used while reading it. When the teacher links what he is reading to why he is reading it, students will begin to deeply understand reading for different purposes. Don't be afraid to be candid and enthusiastic about your personal reading choices; your students are very interested in you, and what you like to read.
Another benefit of a Think Aloud to promote comprehension strategies is for the teacher to explicitly model reading strategies and demonstrate when a reader would use them. For example, during a read aloud of a Marc Brown "Arthur" book, you may stop and say, "I wonder why Arthur and DW are always arguing in this story?" This Think Aloud models the strategy of questioning for the students and shows them how a reader would effectively question the author's text. Later, during the same read aloud you then may make the inference, "I think Arthur and DW are arguing because they don't like the family activity their parents chose." Not only have you modeled the strategy of making inferences, the Think Aloud also allows you the opportunity to explicitly make the connection between two comprehension strategies.
When you take care to choose an age-appropriate book, your Think Aloud strategy for reading comprehension will work wonders with your students. One useful site to explore is the PBS Bookfinder page, where you can find age-appropriate books through third grade for read alouds or independent reading, organized by subject.
To learn more about comprehension best practices, download our FREE K-6 Reading Comprehension Best Practices Guide, today—and help your students become the master readers they deserve to be!
Image Credit: Old Shoe Woman This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.