What Are You Thinking?
The Many Benefits of the Think Aloud Strategy
What is the Think Aloud Strategy?
The Think Aloud Strategy is a strategy where a teacher reads and text out-loud to students and verbally describe the things that they are doing while they are reading to self-monitor their comprehension. The purpose of using the think aloud strategy in the classroom is so to model for students how an accomplished reading deconstructs and analyzes a text to make meaning. It is essentially inviting the students inside your mind to understand the though process they too should be participating in while they read a passage.
Why Use the Think Aloud Strategy In Your Classroom?
- Good readers are active readers
- As they read, good readers frequently make predictions about what is to come
- Good readers construct, revise, and question the meanings they make as they read
- They draw from, compare, and integrate their prior knowledge with materials in the text
- They monitor their understanding of the text making adjustments in their reading as necessary
One way that teachers can instill these skills is by using the think aloud strategy to model these qualities for students.
Ten Tips For Using A Think Aloud in the Classroom...
- When a teacher is introducing a Think Aloud for the first time the initial text choice is important to capturing the learners' attention to model the strategy. Look for books with rich language, meaningful plots, compelling characters, and engaging illustrations. (Gambrell & ALmasi, 1996)
Tip #2: While reading the selected passage aloud to students, model how a fluent reader thinks about the passage and how to solve problems while reading.
- "Expert readers know how to allocate greater attention to important sentences, and they know how to avoid distraction from their reading goals by not paying attention to minor details. (Israel, 2002; Pressley & Afflerbach, 1995)
TIp #3: When engaging students in the Think Aloud strategy model how to make connections with the text. Those connections can be text-to-text, text-to-self, text-to-world.
- Helping children discover these connections requires planning and modeling. Parents and teachers can encourage and support thinking, listening, and discussion, and model "think-alouds," which reveal the inner conversation readers have with text as they read (Harvey & Goudvis, 2000).
Tip #4: Give students a specific skill or purpose that you are going to model for them during your think aloud.
- "Think alouds enable teachers to demonstrate for their students how to select an appropriate comprehension process at a specific point in a particular text" (Block & Israel, pg. 1)
Tip #5: Make predictions as you read so that students can understand this thought process.
- "Effective think-alouds explain what expert readers do before, during, and after they read a large section of text." (Block & Israel, pg.1)
Tip #6: Ask you read through the text ask questions throughout the Think Aloud so that students can see how you engage the text.
- "Expert readers ask themselves questions while they read. These inquiries check the validity of incoming thoughts and clarify or signal that students need to reread or read ahead." (Block & Israel, p. 8)
Tip #7: Designate time in your lesson plans to include Think Alouds as a strategy for increasing comprehension. As with all good things in life...they take time.
- "Though this process may be time-consuming initially, the explicit nature of writing think alouds increases our confidence in implementing these lessons." (Ness & Kenny, p. 4)
Tip #8: Make clarifications about the text as you read so that students can see how they can use the text to clarify things for themselves as they read. Keep it simple.
- "Because the over-arching goal of the think-aloud is to model metacognitive processes, we do not want to overwhelm our students by stopping unnecissarily and detracting from the comprehension process. The process of condensing and eliminating stopping points also must be purposeful." (Ness & Kenny, p. 4)
Tip #9: Throughout your Think Aloud summarize what you are reading and be sure to highlight the skill you are covering.
- "Think alouds require a reader to stop periodically, to reflect in how text is being processed and understood, and to relate orally what reading strategies are being employed. (Bautmann, Jones, & Seifer-Kessell, 1993; Block & Israel, 2004)" (Ness & Kenny, p.1)
Tip #10: Use think alouds across content areas and grades levels to help your readers.
- "Think-alouds are effective for children of all ages, from preschool (Dorl, 2007) to secondary levels (Coiro, 2011; Lapp, Fisher, & Grant, 2008). THink aloud instruction benefits students across text format and genre: in online text (Coiro, 2011; Kymes, 2005), in narrative text (Dymock, 2007), and informational text (Coiro, 2011; Lapp, Fisher, & Grant, 2008; Ortlieb & Norris, 2012)." (Ness & Kenny, p.2)
Think Alouds Beyond the Classroom...
- Become frequent visitors at your local public library. Before students can use the Think Aloud strategy to support their comprehension they need something to read. Visiting your local public library offers students choice and gives learners some ownership to what they are learning.
- Encourage your children to read from a variety of genres and issues. One way that students can become engaged with a text is to read from a variety of genres and issues. This provides students with different background knowledge that they can later apply to a variety of text.
- Use Think Alouds to teach children new concepts outside of reading. By modeling your thinking process for students outside of reading with day to day activities students learn gain metacognitive skills necessary to monitor their own comprehension.
- It's their turn! Give your children a chance to demonstrate a think aloud for you on any book that they may be reading. Ask them to walk you through their thinking of the story. Be sure not to overcorrect but instead encourage them for what they are doing well and redirect them where they may need have concepts clarified.
- Never Fear...Questions are here! New learning and inquisitive minds will only lead to further questioning, which is a good thing. Embrace all the questions that your child asks and encourage them to ask more. Read to your child and be happy when they ask questions. You are helping to build background and foundation for new concepts to come.
- The Reading Rockets webpage is a great resource for a variety of strategies and readings. The link provided above is a great article that provides readers with a step by step reading of how to use a Think Aloud in their classroom. The page also provides a handout that teachers can download and reproduce to give to their students so that they can monitor their comprehension as they read on their own. The article also gives examples of different books that teachers can initially use to implement this strategy. There are also direct links on the page that teachers can go to to read further about other reading comprehension strategies as well as research that supports the Think Aloud strategy.
- ReadWriteThink is a great website for teachers to be able to access lessons and new ideas and strategies that they can implement in their classrooms. The link provided above is to a lesson that is focused on grades 6-8, but can easily be modified for lower grade levels. What is great about this website is that the lesson provides teachers with ready resources that they can use in their classrooms. Also included is a Think Aloud rubric which would be great for students as a guiding resource so that they are fully aware of the expectations set for them. Another great feature of this page is the "Related Resources" tab which directs teachers to other lessons that are similar. This could be a great springboard for teachers to use to begin a bank of lesson plans in their classrooms after the Think Aloud to support reading comprehension.
- The Adolescent Literacy page is a great resources for all the busy teachers out there because the information is direct and to the point. While this page does not have student friendly ready resources, it is a great first page for teachers to visit so that they can get the "gist" of what a Think Aloud is and the benefits of what it can bring for the learners in their classroom. A really nice feature about this site is that at the end of the article your are provided with
- This book by Jeffrey Wilhelm gives educators at any level a practical guide to how we teach reading in our classrooms and how using Think Alouds as an instructional strategy can help students improve their reading comprehension. The book also gives educators a variety of different strategies such as Fish Bowl, Post-Its, and Thought Bubble to use in their classroom in conjunction with the Think Aloud method. The book is a manageable read at under 200 pages. You can find it used on Amazon starting at only a penny! For that price you can't afford not to read it and gain the knowledge that Wilhelm provides.
A Think-Aloud and Talk-Aloud Approach to Building Language:Overcoming Disability, Delay, and Deficiency
- What I really like about this book is that is was published in 2015 so the strategies and tips in it are recent and relevant to teaching today. Authors, Reuven Feuerstein, Louis H. Falik, Refael S. Feuerstein, Krisztina Bohacs take a modern approach to the think aloud strategy. They combine neuroscience and their own research to help identify the benefits of the think aloud strategy for all students, including students with disabilities and students who come from extremely impoverished backgrounds. This book would be extremely helpful to teachers who teacher students of special populations such as special education because there is a focus on helping students overcome those disabilities.
Interactive Think-Alouds Lessons: 25 Surefire Ways to Engage Students and Improve Comprehension
- This book by Lori Oczkus is a great resource for teachers who are new to the think aloud strategy. This book will aid teachers with lessons that have been used in the classroom that have proven successful. The book is aimed at grades K-5 so this would be a elementary specific resource. The book also comes with an additional DVD resource that has additional support so that teachers can actually watch videos of the lessons in the book be reenacted in a real classroom setting. This would be a great help to any novice teachers who would like to see what a think aloud actually sounds and looks like.
Ness Molly, Kenny Mary Beth. (2016). Improving the Quality of Think-Alouds. The Reading Teacher,69(4), 453–460. doi: 10.1002/trtr.1397
Gambrell, Linda B., Almasi, Janice. (1996). Lively Discussions! Fostering Engaged Reading.