Direct Explanation and Transactional Strategy Instruction

The Direct Explanation approach focuses on the teacher's ability to explain explicitly the reasoning and mental processes involved in successful reading comprehension. Rather than teach specific strategies, teachers help students

  1. to view reading as a problem-solving task that necessitates the use of strategic thinking, and
  2. to learn to think strategically about solving comprehension problems. For example, teachers are taught that they could teach students the skill of finding the main idea by casting it as a problem-solving task and reasoning about it strategically.

By using direct explanation, modeling, guided practice, and application, teachers can effectively teach any of the eight comprehension strategies. This process of teaching is effective with most teaching situations. In direct explanation, the teacher explains why the strategy helps comprehension and when to apply the strategy. When the teacher models or demonstrates how to apply the strategy he or she may use a think-aloud process while reading text the students are using. In guided practice, the teacher assists the students as they learn when and how to apply the strategy. During application, the teacher helps students practice the strategy until they can use it independently (Armbuster et al., 2001).

Transactional Strategy Instruction also emphasizes the teacher's ability to provide explicit explanations of thinking processes. It also emphasizes the ability of teachers to facilitate student discussions in which students collaborate to form joint interpretations of text and acquire a deeper understanding of the mental and cognitive processes involved in comprehension. The most powerful thing we can teach is strategic knowledge of the procedures people use to learn, to think, to read, and to write. The most effective way to introduce students to how to use these tools is to model them in the contexts of meaningful tasks and then to assist students in their own use of these strategies (Wilhelm, 2001, p. 7).

The think-aloud strategy can model any of the strategies discussed in this section. Through the think-aloud process, students see how successful readers process information. This process involves modeling the desired strategy to raise the reader's awareness of what it means to be a strategic reader Think Alouds - this FOR-PD Reading Strategy of the Month introduces the use of think alouds as a powerful strategy for making the invisible processes of reading visible to students.