Reading Effectively Across The Disciplines – Biology

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    Davida Smyth

    “Think-alouds” (Davey, 1983) help students understand the kind of thinking required when reading a specific piece of text. The instructor shows his/her thinking process by verbalizing his/her thoughts as he/she reads and processes the information. Students get to see how the teacher attempts to construct meaning for unfamiliar vocabulary, engages in dialogue with the author, or recognizes when he/she isn’t comprehending and selects a fix-up strategy that addresses a problem she is having. Ineffective readers especially benefit from observing what skilled readers think about while reading.

    How to use it:
    1. Explain that reading is a complex process that involves thinking and sense-making; the skilled reader’s mind is alive with questions she asks herself in order to understand what she reads.

    2. Select a passage to read aloud that contains points that students might find difficult, unknown vocabulary terms, or ambiguous wording. Develop questions you can ask yourself that will show what you think as you confront these problems while reading.

    3. While students read this passage silently, read it aloud. As you read, verbalize your thoughts, the questions you develop, and the process you use to solve comprehension problems. It is helpful if you alter the tone of your voice, so students know when you are reading and at what points you begin and end thinking aloud.

    4. Coping strategies you can model include:
    · Making predictions or hypotheses as you read: “From what he’s said so far, I’ll bet that the author is going to give some examples of poor eating habits.”
    · Describing the mental pictures you ” see” : “When the author talks about vegetables I should include in my diet, I can see our salad bowl at home filled with fresh, green spinach leaves.”
    · Demonstrating how you connect this information with prior knowledge: “‘Saturated fat’? I know I’ve heard that term before. I learned it last year when we studied nutrition.”
    · Creating analogies: “That description of clogged arteries sounds like traffic clogging up the interstate during rush hour.”
    · Verbalizing obstacles and fix-up strategies: “Now what does ‘angiogram’ mean? Maybe if I reread that section, I’ll get the meaning from the other sentences around it: I know I can’t skip it because it’s in bold-faced print, so it must be important. If I still don’t understand, I know I can ask the teacher for help,”

    5 . Have students work with partners to practice “think-alouds” when reading short passages of text. Periodically revisit this strategy or have students complete the assessment that follows so these metacomprehension skills become second nature.



    Davida Smyth

    Here are three documents I found online that describe the think aloud strategy in more detail as well as means of assessment. I love this strategy and I’m going to use it several times at the start of the semester to establish reading habits early on.

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