Suggestions for using Think Alouds with students while teaching Their Eyes Were Watching God.
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Instructional Purpose: The Think-Aloud exercise draws on specific
reading skills to explore the information in a selected reading passage.
The Think-Aloud exercise can help students formulate
questions before, during, and after reading the novel. It also can help them
make predictions about what will happen and when, based on what they learn in
the selected reading passage.
When using think-aloud reading with your students, use the
list below (“Reading skills students draw on for strong reading comprehension”) to structure the reading tasks. Either introduce the
list directly to students before reading or during the think aloud with them, showing
students what skills you are using as you use them, and then guiding the group or class can
create the list of skills together.
Step 1: Begin with a short section of a text (1-2 pages);
the text should be challenging for most of your students and give you several
opportunities to illustrate the various reading strategies.
Step 2: Depending on your students’ skills and grade level,
choose 3-5 strategies on which you want to focus from the list. For instance,
Activate Prior Knowledge, Make Predictions, or Ask Questions. Tell your
students what the strategies are that you will be using, why each of these
strategies helps on this particular section of text, and when to use them (i.e. before, during, and/or after) as you read the
Step 3: Make sure you give your students the purpose or goal
for this reading or have them come up with it if that’s appropriate for the
Step 4: Read the text to your students and model the chosen
strategies as you read by stopping to articulate aloud what skills you are
using and what conclusions you are drawing as you read.
Step 5: Have your students annotate the text by underlining, circling, or putting post-it notes near the cues that called for the use of a particular strategy. Discuss
them after the read-aloud is complete.
Step 6: Have students brainstorm a list of other texts and
circumstances where they might be able to use each of the strategies. Have the
students connect these strategies to real life situations.
Step 7: Consistently reinforce the use of these strategies
as you continue reading this text and as you introduce new texts to your
Adapt the Think-Aloud to suit the students in your class,
depending on how independently students are capable of working, how they are
used to working, and how you want to evaluate their work. Possible instructional scenarios include:
Have students either listen or participate as
you conduct the think-aloud; use an overhead projector if possible.
Have students do think-alouds in small or large
groups, aided by the teacher.
Have students do think-alouds as individuals,
writing instead of working orally, and then comparing their work with other
Students do think-alouds outside of class (for
example, for homework), and present their work in class either to small groups
or to the class as a whole.
Reading skills students draw on for strong reading comprehension:
If students are not familiar with the following list of
reading skills, review the following list with them:
What skills do you use before, during, and after you read?
Activate background knowledge:
Approaching a text for the first time, summon any information or
background that you have in relation to the topic of the text, the ideas,
the people or characters, the setting, historical context, author, or
events. Any background knowledge you can draw on provides a foundation for
your reading experience, helping you to make sense of the new text.
Set a purpose/reason/goal for reading:
Establish what you expect to get out of the reading. Depending on the
purpose you identify, you will adjust your reading in order to meet your
purpose or goal. Completing this crucial initial step will help you to
successfully interact with the text.
you reading for pleasure or entertainment?
gather information about, for example, a different culture or way of
support a thesis?
answer an essential question?
Decode text into words and meanings:
Reading decoding is the ability to figure out how to read unknown words by
using knowledge of letters, sounds, and word patterns. This is a basic
reading skill but it is important to draw on when encountering newer, more
diverse, and more sophisticated texts. Decoding text into words with
meaning involves using such strategies to define unfamiliar words as using
context clues or word parts (e.g., prefixes, suffixes, roots).
Make personal connections: In the
process of reading, constantly compare and contrast your own knowledge and
experience with what the text presents and reveals. The process of
“personal engagement” with the text improves your comprehension and
understanding. Ask yourself the following questions as you read:
is this like or unlike something I know or have experienced?
can I connect the ideas here to other texts I have read?
is this text (and the ideas presented in it) useful or relevant to me?
Make predictions: From the moment
you pick up a text, start making predictions about it. Look at such things
as the title, table of contents, dedication, number of pages, font size,
photographs, and the commentary on the back or book jacket. Begin to make
predictions about the contents, quality and your initial reactions to the
text. As your reading progresses, continue to check and revise your
initial reactions and predictions.
Visualize: While reading a
fictional text, create a mental picture of the setting and imagine what
the characters look like. Essentially, immerse yourself in the visual
world of the story. In a nonfiction text that may have abstract elements,
create visual symbols, concept webs, or mind maps that help you keep track
of the information and organize it.
Ask questions: Make a habit of
asking questions while you read. Ask questions about the text, the writer,
your own responses, opinions, and reactions to the reading. You may ask
questions that probe deeper for understanding, or you may simply ask
questions that voice your internal confusion and need for clarity. Even if
you view yourself as a less skilled reader, use questions to work through
your confusion instead of simply stopping reading the text.
Monitor understanding and summarize:
Carry an “invisible suitcase” of information with you as you read a text.
Along the way, drop important skills into the case that help you to make
sense of the text; if something doesn’t make sense, unpack it and take a
closer look. Review those collected items at various points in the reading
in order to move toward understanding, synthesis and evaluation of the
Apply what you have learned: Both
during and after the reading, regularly ask yourself:
can I use this information?”
does this story mean to me?”
can I apply this in my own life?”
this relevant to other situations or circumstances?”