Archived Information

State of the Art: Reading - November 1993

image omitted 4. Modeling is an important form of classroom support for literacy learning.


Strategies for approaching different types of reading have different types of purposes. We will not leave our students to discover these strategies on their own, because most of them won't. Rather, we will forthrightly show them. For example, you can effectively model out loud for students the way to determine the main idea or most important point of a text. We also model reading itself, not only during read-alouds with the children, but also by reading ourselves during Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) time....Just as with sustained writing time, sustained silent reading is a time during which everyone is involved, including you.
                                             (Templeton 1991, p. 272)

In the literacy classroom learning is a constructive, interactive process. As children develop literacy skills, they need careful guidance and support within their reading, writing, listening, and speaking experiences during instruction. Support in this context is sometimes referred to as scaffolding. Teacher modeling, a form of scaffolding, is a way of showing students how to approach a task such as finding the main idea of a story.

There are two types of modeling: implicit and explicit (Roehler and Duffey 1991). Implicit modeling occurs as part of the literacy experience--for example, reading a fable aloud to children while also engaging them in the meaning of story and conveying a purpose for reading. Explicit modeling entails demonstrating to students how to approach a task--such as how to use a table of contents.

Two types of explicit modeling are talk-alouds and think-alouds. In a talk-aloud activity, the teacher gives students a series of steps they must follow to complete a task, and then asks questions to guide students through the task from beginning to end. In a think-aloud activity, the teacher shares with students the thinking process one must go through to approach a task and complete it. On the one hand, in the talk-aloud method, the teacher's emphasis is on the procedural steps used to complete a task like finding the main idea. On the other hand, in the think-aloud approach, the teacher's emphasis is on the actual thinking process that he or she goes through in approaching and carrying out a cognitive task like inferring a main idea.

Both forms of modeling, implicit and explicit, have a place in the well-balanced literacy program. They are designed to show students strategies they can use on their own to gain an understanding of new material. It is critical, however, that modeling practices be seated within whole literacy events because they easily become instances of isolated skills teaching. Ensuring that modeling practices take place within an appropriate instructional context requires continuous vigilance from the teacher.
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[Phonemic awareness, a precursor to competency in identifying words, is one of the best predictors of later success in reading.] [Table of Contents] [Storybook reading, done in the context of sharing experiences, ideas, and opinions, is a highly demanding mental activity for children.]