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Talk About Understanding

Rethinking Classroom Talk to Enhance Comprehension

Ellin demystifies comprehension instruction by detailing what deep comprehension and ambitious instruction look like. The accompanying DVD offers clips of Ellin working with readers so you can hear and see her teaching language and classroom moves.

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Full Description

Reading education pioneer Ellin Oliver Keene demystifies comprehension instruction by describing what it can look like when readers comprehend deeply and what it can look like when teachers aim for this deep comprehension. This ground-breaking book is illustrated with video footage of Ellin modeling the reading instruction she describes. Here, you can watch Ellin use language and teaching moves that help students go beyond superficial reading comprehension to lasting understanding.

Talk About Understanding offers:

  • “Outcomes of Understanding” Markers—descriptions of the behaviors present when children understand a text deeply including ways to assess with and teach toward these outcomes.
  • “Talk About Understanding” Principles—suggestions to modify teaching language and teaching interactions to deepen children’s ability to comprehend.
  • “From the Inside” Video Segments—classroom footage of Ellin teaching lessons that illustrate use of the “Outcomes of Understanding” markers and “Talk About Understanding” principles from the book.

Do your students understand their reading as deeply as they need to? Talk About Understanding has the guiding principles, the teaching suggestions, the carefully described outcomes, and the video support to help you teach your students how to comprehend, thoroughly and eagerly, the varied and complicated texts in the world around us.

Additional Resource Information

(click any section below to continue reading)


1: Comprehension Strategy Instruction Grows Up: Why strategies matter and when they are not enough.
2: Insights and Empathy: What does it mean to comprehend deeply in narrative text?
3: From the Inside: Integrating strategy instruction and narrative outcomes
4: Immersed in Ideas: What does it mean to comprehend deeply in informational text?
5: From the Inside: Integrating strategy instruction and expository outcomes
6: When We Talk to Children
7: From the Inside: Teacher’s oral language and children’s understanding
8: When We Respond to Children’s Voices
APPENDICES (downloadable at
A: Literacy Studio Components
B: Comprehension Strategies Defined
C: Dimensions of Understanding
D: Comprehension Strategy Study Planning Tool
E: Obervation Record
F: Oral Language Reflection Tool


Companion Resources


“Ellin takes her masterful guidance to a new level, modeling how educators can teach children to understand more deeply and more lastingly. Her focus on getting all children to understand more deeply and lastingly is unwavering and based on her belief that all learners can, and she provides a clear map of how to help them get there. As a leader of a dual language school, I am especially appreciative of how this book is relevant to those who teach second language learners—by focusing on how to tap into student’s schema, provide access to and develop content knowledge, higher order thinking, and the use of oral language—all essential for second language learners. At a time when we hear much rhetoric about higher standards with little guidance on how to reach them, Ellin provides yet another welcome tool for literacy educators that will help us take literacy teaching to the next level.”
Julie Nora, Ph.D., Director
International Charter School

"For many years now, teachers have been helping children develop an awareness of the strategies that critical readers use as they process and make sense of text, yet we are often perplexed about how to improve the quality and depth of student responses.  What exactly are we looking for and how do we get there?  In this book, Ellin provides teachers with a vision to take strategy instruction to the next level by understanding how our language plays a crucial role in building true understanding.”

—Barb Keister
Literacy Coordinator, Delaware City Schools

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