Teaching children to read is truly a more difficult task than I feel like any primary teacher receives credit for. Let’s be honest–if you handed the right tools to just anyone do you think they could get the job done? I remember my first year in kindergarten and just how overwhelmed I was by the responsibility of teaching them to read. We are doing our best to teach a child to not only decode text, but to understand the text. After all, as experts say, a child cannot read if they cannot understand what they are reading. We want them to decode the text and think about what they are reading along the way so that they can comprehend. When it comes to teaching five and six year olds how to do this, having a systematic process in place helps greatly. Think about the gradual release model as you read the steps below for teaching readers to be thinkers.
Step 1: Model How to Think Like a Reader
This is also known as a “think aloud”. Anytime I read aloud a book to my students, especially during interactive read aloud time, I modeled how to think like a reader. Often times I would preface the read aloud with, “Today I’m going to show you how good readers_____.” Then, as I was reading the book, I would stop, place the book down on my lap to signal that I was not getting the words from the text, but rather from my head, and then say something like, “I am thinking about how this character must be feeling as her mom told her she couldn’t take her favorite blanket to school today.” I spoke aloud about my thinking to model how good readers think!
Step 2: Invite Students to Participate
Inviting the students to think aloud with you is crucial. Often times in my classroom, this looked like me asking the students to turn and talk to their sticky-high-five partner. I would usually provide sentence stems for them, but it was a great opportunity for them to be near. They practiced sharing their thinking, their partner would guide them if needed, and I was always near to coach them through. Another time they would do this often was during guided reading with me. It was a safe place to practice and I could see how they were progressing in this skill.
Step 3: Encourage Students to Do It Independently
The final piece is the send off. Students have watched you think aloud like a good reader, they have practiced it under your guidance and care, and now they will do it independently. Many times they would do this during literacy stations and read to self time. I would gently remind them to think like readers as they went to their stations. Another time they would practice independently was anytime that I read aloud a book to them, but didn’t have them turn and talk about it. Sometimes I would have them write in a reading journal or complete an activity that would show me more about their thinking.
Eventually, this all leads to each student being able to comprehend the text fully. If a child doesn’t know how to think like a reader, it was evident during any assessment–formal or informal. For me, I knew that meant it was time to revisit and reinforce the importance of thinking about what we are reading.
If you are looking for some direction and guidance as you plan some read aloud lessons and work on teaching readers to be thinkers, you may be interested in THESE.