Making Thinking Visible

The terms I am explaining below work together to create connections that will help young children to increase their reading comprehension. For years, we have taught reading in abstract terms, and while many children do become great readers by being exposed to books and reading, some of us need something more concrete to which we can attach our learning.

The terms mentioned below and in many of my posts give children the vocabulary with which to talk about their reading experiences. I teach students to use these terms when I read aloud to children during their short library times once a week in our conversations about what we are reading.

Through this method, I have witnessed students who do not like to sit and listen become engaged as they are allowed to raise their hand and share a connection they have with what I am reading to them. Passive listeners are now active ones. By showing kids what I am thinking when I am reading, I am modeling what being a good reader is like.

Good readers think when they are reading. Good readers make connections. Good readers make inferences and predictions. My students have learned to respond when I ask them if anyone wants to make an inference or a prediction with “I am predicting that…” or “I am inferring that…”

By giving students the vocabulary and modeling the strategies for them, I am helping them to make their own thinking visible.

Making Thinking Visible Terms

Schema is our background knowledge. I tell my students that schema is everything in our brains that we have learned from the time we were a baby to now.

I have made up some hand movements to go with it to help them to remember. We point to our brains, move our arms in an open circle for “everything,” hold our arms like we are rocking a baby, then point down to mean “now.”

Please ask your student what schema is and what they have in their schema about books that you are reading to and with them. Research shows that when we make connections with what we are reading to something we already have in our schema, we will be able to better remember it.

At the beginning of many of the posts, I have provided some schema ideas that students may have in order to provide some examples to teachers and librarians.

Text-to-Self Connections
When this type of connection is made, a student is able to tell you things they have experienced themselves that are similar to what they are reading about in their book.

When I am reading a book about frogs, I might have a text-to-self connection with seeing a frog in my backyard, picking up a frog, or seeing my dog chasing a frog. By reinforcing these types of thinking activities, you will be helping your student’s comprehension skills.

Text-to-Text Connections
When one book connects in your schema (everything you already know) with another book that you have read, you are making a text-to-text connection.

All new learning must be connected with something we already know if we are to comprehend and remember it.

When reading with your child, stop and ask them to predict what will happen next in the story.

In the library, students are expected to preface their prediction with the words “I am predicting that…”

By asking your child or student to predict, you are helping them to make a connection with the text, which will help them to comprehend and remember what is being read. Sometimes our predictions are even better than the the actual outcome of the story!

Predicting engages young readers as you are reading with them.

Comparing and Contrasting
When reading with your student, ask how characters, places, or possible outcomes in the story are alike and different. Please ask your student to show you how they make thinking visible by using a graphic organizer with them such as a Venn Diagram.

Students use graphic organizers to show the similarities and differences by writing them in circles that overlap. The similarities go in the overlapping parts of the circles, and the differences are in the parts that do not overlap.

Drawing Conclusions
After reading a book, ask your student what conclusions they can draw.

The conclusion might be a general statement about life, such as “Sometimes we take things for granted and don’t appreciate them until these things have been taken away. If and when we get them back, we are more aware of how great our lives were before we lost what we took for granted.” This is a conclusion that I discussed with fifth graders based on the book Froggy Fable by John Lechner.

When a conclusion is drawn, examples from the text should be found to support that conclusion. If you can verbalize a conclusion that you have drawn, ask your student to look back in the book (the text) for evidence to support this conclusion. Other conclusions could be about the way a character has changed, not changed, what their future actions might be, or about the author’s purpose for writing the book.

As with all of these reading strategies, drawing a conclusion is something good readers do. It’s helpful to use that phrase, “what good readers do,” when reading with your student. For example, “Good readers draw conclusions about what they read. I wonder what conclusions we can draw from this book.”