Quick question: Parents, do you read aloud to your children? Teachers, do you read aloud to your class? Chances are, you just answered “yes.” Well, to maximize the effectiveness of your read-aloud time, here are a few quick tips for fostering critical thinking skills with your children.
Tip One: Think Out Loud
As an accomplished reader, you have lots of great thoughts pinging around that noggin of yours while you’re reading– and you probably take them for granted. But if you can become aware of them- and then share them aloud with your children or students- you will be providing a great model for critical thinking. For example, if you’re reading about the kitchen in Little Women, and you can picture curtains at the window, a braided rug on the floor, and a worn wooden table against the wall, tell your children that’s what you’re picturing. Then ask them what they think might be in the kitchen, too. Are pictures hanging on the wall? Who is in the pictures? This may seem like a simple conversation, but you’re actually practicing visualizing and inferring– two traits of critical thinkers and readers.
Tip Two: Be Socratic
The Socratic Method, termed thus after Socrates, uses questioning to teach learners to think for themselves. To be Socratic during a read-aloud, simply stop every page or so and ask a question. Some basic questions you could use are:
- What do you think is going to happen next? Why?
- Why do you think he/she did that? (or felt that way?)
- Have you ever been in a similar situation? What happened?
- What do you think it would be like to do that (or go there)? Would it be fun/boring/scary? Why?
Tip Three: Pull out the Art Supplies
Before reading, pass out blank paper and coloring supplies (crayons, colored pencils, etc.) Ask students to illustrate what they’re visualizing while you read. Tell them to add as many details as possible–even if they have to infer (or guess) to fill in details if the author didn’t tell exactly what color something was or how something looked. Again, this will reinforce visualizing (making mind pictures) and inferring (making guesses)– two skills necessary for advanced reading and thinking. And don’t worry- most students can actually listen better while doodling!
Tip Four: Post it!
Finally, if you can’t remember to stop and do these things while reading aloud, take a stack of sticky notes and stick them every few pages. Then, when you get to a sticky note, share a thought you’re having about the book or ask a question. If you have time, write down a question or thought on the notes beforehand.
And remember–no matter what you do while reading aloud, applaud yourself! Reading aloud to children is one of the most effective ways to model fluency and comprehension…not to mention that you’re making reading an enjoyable experience!
Written by Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed., who holds a master’s degree in Literacy from Lesley University, Cambridge, and a bachelor’s in education from The University of Georgia.