Dr. Connie Hebert helps kids, parents, and teachers by helping them become experts at catching "the teachable minute" anytime, anywhere! My Teachable Minute Blog offers quick tips on how to engage with younger and older kids. Comments, questions, and reflections are always welcome . . . let's catch a million teachable minutes together!

Teaching Kids How to Think AS They Read

Teach students how to ask questions in a manner that leads to the answer, and you will be teaching them the answer. Anonymous

One of the greatest things we can do for kids is to teach them how to ask questions of themselves as they are reading. The trick is to use the power of modeling.  No program or set of materials can do this for you. It is the teacher who models strategies, behaviors, and skills. It is the teacher who demonstrates how to do something, not the program that is sitting on the shelf. Just as effective ski instructors use the power of demonstration to teach their students, teachers and parents must also do the same.

What does this sort of modeling look like? It starts with a willingness to verbalize and share ourown thinking with the kids. For example, we might start them out by saying, “Today, we’re going to think through this book together, and I will be telling you what I’m thinking about as well.” This introduction sets up the thinking and establishes a purpose for the lesson. As the adult reads the text aloud, he or she stops at certain places to think out loud. Here are a few key phrases that might be used to model the process of thinking and questioning a text as it is read:

  • “I’m wondering . . .”
  • “This part has me confused. Let’s look at the words in the story that might clear up this confusion.”
  • “So now I understand that . . .”
  • “Listen to the words that helped me.” (Teacher points to the actual page and then reads the supporting evidence aloud.)
  • “I don’t understand why . . . Can someone help me think through this part of the story?”
  • “Here’s a question that keeps coming back at me as I read.”
  • “This is a sentence that still has me baffled. What do you think it really means?”
  • “How can this be true? I’m wondering if I should believe everything that I read.”
  • “When did that take place? Here are the words that answer that question.”
  • “What is this author really trying to say? Let me read on before I figure that one out.”
  • “I still don’t get this part. Let me go back and see what happened earlier in the story.”
  • “This is puzzling to me. What can I do to figure it out?”
  • “Wait a minute! Now I see what’s going on. Listen to this part.”

It is important that the tone of the voice be considered whenever we are modeling our questions aloud for kids. Little puppies and kids are especially gifted in picking up on what we mean simply by the tone in our voice. We can sound genuinely curious or ridiculously bored depending on how we ask the question. Teaching kids to think while reading is a monumental task because it requires that we share our personal thoughts, ideas, confusions, and strategies.

The ultimate goal is to problem solve comprehension skills aloud so that kids will begin to take risks, ask questions inside their heads and in their writing, and justify their answers with evidence from the text. A whole-group 15-minute lesson works well for this type of activity. Watch the results blossom as your kids begin to think when they read and write. Kids, after all, are naturally curious. Let’s hope that we are building on that natural ability so that we can encourage the act of thinking. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if people actually got paid just to think?






Comments on: "Teaching Kids to Think AS They Read" (4)

  1. Modeling, modeling, modeling. Great post, totally agree.

  2. Marie Leahy said:

    Terrific article on metacognition! I agree that lots of modeling in showing our students how a strategic reader thinks as he/she reads is crucial in helping them to develop their comprehension skills. Your comment about “The ultimate goal … ” in the last paragraph ties in so well with CCSS.

    • Thanks you, Marie…glad you found it useful. SO important…let me know if I can help catch falling readers where you are. Thanks for your positive feedback…

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