The classroom read-aloud may very well be the most important tool we have for modeling the processes that independent readers follow as they make meaning from print.

We read to our students for many different reasons:  to give them experiences with rich texts that are beyond what they can read and understand on their own; to build their background knowledge and concept base; to expose them to new vocabulary and literary language.  But we’re missing a valuable teaching and learning opportunity if we fail to think aloud our own responses and processes as we read.

Given the body of research supporting the importance of read alouds,  Janet Allen (Yellow Brick Roads, 2000) writes that we should remind ourselves that those same benefits occur when we extend read-alouds throughout middle and high school.

 

When read-alouds are understood as powerful tools for teaching literary elements, building analytical ability, and addressing the standards, they can bring both joy and accelerated learning into the lives of our students. Linda Hoyt

THINK ALOUD – THINK ALONG – THINK ALONE

Gradual Release Responsibility

One of the problems with reading is that it’s an “in-the-head process.” How do you teach students what readers do when they can’t see what readers do?  The answer is thinking aloud.  As we read aloud, we can articulate the thoughts that are going through our heads – personal responses, questions, inferences, and even miscues.  Then we can pause to invite students to think along with us, articulating their own responses at strategic pause points.

Read more about Roger Farr’s Think Aloud protocol.

THINK-ALOUD PROMPTS

  • This reminds me of…
  • I already know…
  • I’m predicting that…
  • I’m inferring that
  • I’m wondering…
  • Why is/why did…
  • Should/shouldn’t there be…
  • What happened to…
  • I was/wasn’t expecting…
  • I can just picture…
  • I’m a little confused here…
  • I’m not sure of…
  • The key idea here is…
  • This is worth remembering, I think…
  • I think that the author…
  • I need to go back and reread that part…
  • Remember when it said…
  • I love the way the author…
  • I was thinking that…but now I’m thinking that…
  • The most important message here is…
 

WHAT MAKES AN EFFECTIVE READ-ALOUD?

1.  Careful Text Selection:  Choose texts that engage students and elevate their thinking.  Good read-alouds take students beyond what they can read on their own and enrich their vocabulary and background knowledge.

2.  Intentionality and Focus:  Plan ahead of time where you might pause during the reading, what you might think aloud to the students and where you might have students talk to each other. Be sure to explain vocabulary and concepts your students might not understand.  Plan HOT (Higher Order Thinking) questions to guide your students’ discussion and response.

3.  Fluent and Expressive Reading:  The sound of a good reader reading with appropriate phrasing and intonation is a powerful model for developing readers. That might mean prereading and practising the text ahead of time.  But don’t worry about making the occasional miscue; it lets students know that even good readers read the wrong word occasionally.  The important thing is for readers to recognize when they’ve made an error and to use strategies to self-correct and move on.

4.  Opportunities for discussion:  Inviting students to turn and talk at strategic points during the reading helps them learn to think aloud as readers, to construct meaning as they go and to hear other points of view.  Engaging students in an interactive or analytic read-aloud has been shown to increase engagement, comprehension of that particular text and future reading independence.  For many students, it’s important to model and practice effective responses; here’s a list of “Words That Make You Sound Smart When You Talk About Reading.”

5.  Repetition for a Purpose:  It’s no secret that many of us just don’t “get it” the first time!  If we want students to think critically and comprehend deeply, it’s often necessary to reread some passages.  The interesting thing is that rereading familiar text has more impact than just the text at hand. It has been shown to build overall reading independence for future reading as well.

 

Read an interesting research piece on how 25 exemplary teachers conduct read-alouds.

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