To solve a math word problem, students must be able to read it for understanding. Students with autism spectrum disorder may have difficulty with reading comprehension. In those cases, teachers might embed comprehension strategies to support their learning.
Think-Aloud Strategy Supports Reading Comprehension for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Think-aloud is a strategy that supports reading comprehension for students with autism spectrum disorder. During a think-aloud, the teacher uses modeling to demonstrate cognitive processes for understanding what is being read. This is done by stopping throughout the text and thinking aloud about what is being mentally processed and understood.
According to Tovani (2000), there are four major steps in conducting think-alouds that can be adapted for math word problems:
1. Choose a mathematical word problem that will be of high interest to students and allow for the modeling of metacognitive strategies of Say, Ask, and Check. Begin with a one-step word problem and increase to two- and three-step word problems.
2. Anticipate which areas within the text may challenge the reader’s comprehension and make a note to highlight portions in the think-aloud. For example, model anaphoric cueing is a process of referring to earlier elements of a text to understand or bring meaning to what is being read. It is commonly used to identify the meaning of pronouns within text.
3. Read the text aloud to students and provide a paper copy of the text for each student, so the text reaches both auditory and visual learners.
4. Highlight specific words that instantly trigger an action (key words) and authentically explain what is mentally being processed.
While modeling a think-aloud, Kluth and Chandler-Olcott (2008) suggest that teachers use body language as a cueing system to distinguish between thinking aloud and reading text aloud (e.g., touch and look at the Smartboard when reading aloud; step away from the Smartboard and look at students when thinking aloud). [Note: Modeling is a core instructional component in the Solve It! instructional approach.]
Solve It! is an evidenced-based instructional approach that helps students with autism spectrum disorder, as well as students with math difficulties and learning disabilities, learn the cognitive processes and self-regulation strategies to develop math word problem-solving skills. Learn more.
Kluth, P., & Chandler-Olcott, K. (2008). ‘‘A land we can share’’: Teaching literacy to students with autism. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.
Tovani, C. (2000). I read it, but I don’t get it: Comprehension strategies for adolescent readers. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.