The Missouri Reader Vol. 42, Issue 1 - Page 8



Why Join the Missouri State Reading Council?*

MSC-IRA is committed to promoting literacy statewide. MSC-IRA members share an interest in following the current trends in literacy and reading instruction. Membership in MSC-IRA provides opportunities to learn about the latest developments in literacy education and to meet and interact with local leaders as well as leaders across the state. Information about the newest teaching materials and professional publications is shared at meetings. MSC-IRA co-sponsor’s both the Write to Learn and Missouri Early Learning Conferences to provide opportunities to gain insights into special issues and concerns in reading such as the new Missouri State Standards, Title I, balanced literacy, parent programs, research-based teaching strategies, and much more.

Benefits of Membership in MSC-IRA*

● Learn about the latest developments in literacy education

● Meet and interact with the best in local literacy leaders as well as those across the state

● Receive information about the newest teaching materials and professional publications

● Gain insights into special issues and concerns in reading such as Title I, balanced literacy, parent programs and research based teaching strategies by attending our annual conference

● Receive the support and camaraderie of others who share a common interest in literacy

Diana Houlle,

Director of Membership for MSC

*Editors note. We are in the process of becoming affiliated with the International Literacy Association, formally the International Raading Association. Labels, logos and names will change as that change takes effect.




Recently I had the pleasure of sitting in a first-grade classroom, where Mr. DeMarco began his September morning with a whole-class read aloud of the perennial favorite, Miss Nelson is Missing. In this 1977 Harry Allard classic, Miss Nelson - a crafty teacher who is exasperated with her students’ poor behavior – secretly disguises herself into a nasty substitute teacher, Miss Viola Swamp. Miserable with their new teacher, the students search for Miss Nelson. Scattered throughout the book are essential clues to help readers infer that Miss Nelson and Miss Viola Swamp are, in fact, the same person. At the end of this read aloud, Mr. DeMarco asked his class to evaluate Miss Nelson’s decision to trick her students. After a few seconds of puzzled responses, a brave boy raised his hand and posed, “What are you talking about? How did Miss Nelson trick her class?” In that instant, Mr. DeMarco realized that his class had missed the major inferences of the book. The entire humor, message, and subtle nuances of the text were lost to this class of first graders.

What if this well-intentioned teacher had provided a think aloud during his read aloud? A think aloud is when a proficient reader uses “I” language to model the thinking and metacognitive moves that they use to understand a text. In a think aloud, a teacher provides quick explanations of what is going through his/her mind at periodic stopping points. With this transparent effort, students are more likely to internalize the reading comprehension strategies that will help them in their independent reading.

So for the story above, how might Mr. DeMarco’s students’ comprehension improved if he had given the following think aloud.

Throughout the end of the story, the author has given me some important clues. I’m going to add up those clues to make an inference about the identity of Miss Nelson. I know that Miss Nelson disappeared at the same time as when Miss Viola Swamp appeared. I know the kids saw Miss Viola Swamp right by Miss Nelson’s house. Now I know that Miss Nelson has a black dress in her closet and a secret she won’t tell. All of this evidence makes me think that Miss Nelson and Miss Swamp are the same person. I’m inferring that Miss Nelson dressed up in a disguise to teach her kids a lesson about their behavior.

When teachers think aloud, our students benefit. Students who are exposed to think alouds outperform their peers without such instruction on measures of reading comprehension. Think alouds are beneficial for a wide variety of readers across a wide variety of text; these benefits have been documented for struggling readers, for English Language Learners, for different text genres and content areas, and as students encounter online text. As teachers provide a model of strategic reading, we increase the likelihood that students will follow in our footsteps. Moreover, students enjoy think alouds. The think aloud serves as an energized, brief instructional burst that helps young readers to take on the strategies modeled.

Despite their benefits, think alouds are not commonplace in K-5 classrooms today. As most teachers are proficient readers themselves, it may be difficult for them to pinpoint the sources of confusion for students. In my work as a teacher educator, I have found that the explicit modeling component of think alouds requires deliberate and diligent planning. Effective think alouds do not emerge extemporaneously. We are incorrect in assuming that effective think alouds will come to us naturally and without advance planning. In a year-long study with a teacher study group, I created a three-step process to help teachers think big with think alouds. As I plan my think alouds to be a powerful metacognitive strategy, I skim through the selected text three times – each rereading is described in the steps below. I equate this three-step planning process to teaching a child to ride a bike with training wheels. Just as training wheels provide stability and confidence in

learning a new skill, so does the word-by-word script of a think aloud. Our end goal is to be able to think aloud with comfort, ease, and skill, just as a young child hopes to ride a bike independently.