Think Aloud Strategies

for Comprehending Expository and Narrative Text


Think aloud strategies have been used in the classroom for years, but not until recently have they been known to help with comprehension. Teachers need to model thinking aloud more often. Read a story, stop, and explain out loud what you are thinking! "Though think-alouds are widely recommended, they may not yet be commonplace in today's classrooms." Walker (2005) wrote, “Seldom are the teachers modeling the think-aloud process as students read”" (p. 688). I created this handout to show you just how beneficial the think aloud strategies can be! This strategy links the teacher and students process to construct understand of text. (McKeown, 136) Below are some great tips on how this can look and sound in the classroom.

Tip #1 Teacher Model Think Aloud

"The more I prepared, and tried out think alouds the more confident I became in my knowledge that this was something I both should do and could do." (Reading Horizons, p. 1) During a think aloud, the teacher will stop periodically while reading, and verbally express his or her thoughts. This is something we should do as educators everyday, giving students the clear picture of what thinking aloud looks and sounds like. Sometimes it sounds like I am simply talking to myself, because I am, but I am doing this in front of the students to model what it should look like. The students appreciate hearing your thoughts! (Ness, Kenny)

Check out this video, Best Practice: Modeling Thinking For Students

Tip #2 Think Aloud Activities use Metacognition

When students are forced to talk about what they are reading, they become engaged, and this is a process called meta-cognition. (McKeown, 136) Keep in mind though that not all strategies work for every student. Some students may require more time expressing themselves than their peers. Differentiation is a must!
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Tip #3 Gather Background Knowledge

When it comes to getting students to think, you must ask questions! Getting students to think about what they already know will help gather their background knowledge. Ask students quesitons like, "Have you ever heard of this before?" "What does this remind you of?" "Is there a time in your life where you experienced this same thing?" You may need to help students build this knowledge if they lack owning an experience that relates. (Oster, p. 64-69)


Book: “And you could not live by eating flies.”

Teacher Prompt: “I remember that lions are carnivores, meaning they eat meat. I know that the lion's plan will not work.” (Ness, Kenny table 4)

Tip #4 Create Inferences

"What do you think will happen in this story?" This question is a great starter on getting students to think about what might happen next. (Ness, Kenny p.454) Creating inferences may seem like an easy task, but this is something that many students struggle with doing on their own. As you lead the discussion with the students, remind yourself that you must encourage and start those inferences for them.
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Tip #5 Ask Questions to Clarify Confusion

Ask the students, "Did the story makes sense to you?" "What was confusing about the topic?" Many times the older students will tell you that they do not understand what is happening, but if the moment is embarrassing they may not say anything. Most of the younger students will not even notice that they are missing the meaning of the story. As the teacher, you will need to clarify meaning by asking questions. The students can use this time to tell you orally about the story.

Example of how this might sound:

"And it bit the lion."

Teacher: “I wonder why the spider bit the lion here. Was it out of revenge for ruining his web? I'll have to read on to find out.” (Ness, Kenny)

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Tip #6 Strategies for English Language Learners

Second language students can think out loud about their text, and it helps them hear the language they are using. Once students get to 6th, 7th, and 8th grade "they learn to monitor their own comprehension using think alouds. (Bereiter and Bird 1985)" (McKeown) In my own classroom, I see first hand just how much English language learners love to talk. Think alouds can be used to keep these students on track!

Tip #7 Scaffolding

Scaffolding is an activity when a teacher steps in to help a student with a new or challenging concept. This think aloud strategy can be applied to any content. Imagine yourself as a ladder to their success. All they need is some support to get them to the next step. Provide students with a way to organize the text and guide them in a direction that makes sense. (Smith, p. 764) Students need to start out practicing as a whole class, then they can break off into pairs, and finally they can try this strategy independently. (Oster, p. 64-69)

Below is a great video where a teacher helps her students start thinking about questioning as they read.

Tip #8 Use Short Mystery Stories to Get Students to Think Aloud

"The gradual accumulation of evidence to solve a "mystery" further ingrains in students' minds that reading comprehension is a cumulative, interactive process." (Smith, p. 9) Having the power of knowing that reading is all about gaining meaning of the text shows the students the number one reason on why we read. The most important thing is growing from literature and having it teach us something. Using short mystery stories can help build this strategy.

Tip #9 Visualize

As student discusses about the story, ask them what do they see. Students can verbally express what they see, or write it down. Explaining what they visualize helps each reader gain a different perspective on how other people perceive the story. Students need to create images that contain three-dimensional shapes! (Ness, Kenny p.454)
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Tip #10 Reflect

After the day, ask yourself what role did having students use think aloud strategies play in your classroom? Do you feel your think aloud discussions are successful? What are some of the challenges you or your students are having with expressing their thoughts orally? (Ness, Kenny P. 453) If there are some things you want to change, go pack and plan accordingly! Remember, students have a difficult time with thinking aloud when the text is at a frustration level. Use books the students are comfortable with, or have read before. They will be more likely to express their thoughts!
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What Can Parents Do?

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Parent Tip #1 Ask Questions!

Parents, you can help your child explain their thoughts out loud by asking questions! As you all are reading at home, conversation (Ness, Kenny p. 456)

Parents, this is a great video that gives 5 amazing tips on how to read best with your child! Check it out!

Parent Tip #2 Create Dialogue

We carry on conversations all the time with our children. Creating dialogue about books can be just as easy! Once you and your child bond over one or two genres, getting to know the author and type of book becomes natural!

Example of the how the dialogue may sound:

“And some of us may be small but very smart.”

“I know that fables have a moral, or a lesson for the reader to learn. What the spider says here gives me a hint about the lesson to the reader here. The lion was lazy and unkind to the spider, but the spider teaches the lion about hard work and cleverness. The author is telling me here that hard work pays off and that I should not be unkind to others.” (Ness, Kenny table 4).

Parent Tip #3 Restate what your child says

As you listen to your child read, restate what he is she is saying in a simplier way. Then, you can move to a more complicated context once they understand. Soon, your child will begin to restate what they're reading independently, and it will become automatic. Later in life, your child will critically think about what they're reading. It will benefit them as they graduate school, and support their success through their own career(s)! (Ness, Kenny p. 454)
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Parent Tip #4 Let Your Child Pick their Books

Children need to verbalize their thoughts. Let them express which books they want to read. You can then continue to ask them why they chose that book later. (Oster, p. 64) Hopefully you and your child to find similarities in what you both like to read. Maybe you both can learn something from each other!
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Parent Tip #5 Be A Reader!

As a parent, you are the greatest influence in your child's life! When they see you reading, it makes them want to read too. Talk about your books! Describe to your child a brief sections of the magazine, book, or newspaper article you have been reading. Share your thoughts about the topic and describe why you came to those conclusions.

created by: Amanda Raymond

Webliography Reading Rockets is a great website to gain information on read aloud strategies. It gives you some specific examples, and questions to ask during the lesson. The site even gives a few differentiated instruction. At the bottom of the page, you can find sources that support these strategies. Teacher Vision is a fun site to visit. Teacher Vision explains exactly what the think aloud strategy is, "it asks students to say out loud what they are thinking about when reading, solving math problems, or simply responding to questions posed by the teacher or a peer." When teachers listen to their students think aloud, they can begin to understand their strengths and weaknesses. Power Up What Works is an intersting site to visit. This site gives you a video where you can view a presentation of think aloud strategies. If you are searching for a few assessments, look at this website. Edutopia is a colorful site! It urges you take incoporate culture into the classroom. When you use think aloud strategies, you can get students to express the individuals they are appreciate the culture within every child!


Helping elementary teachers to think aloud. (2014). Reading Horizons (Online), 53(2), 1-25. Retrieved from

This article gives more great ideas on how to implement think alouds in the classroom. It is written from research. This article helps clear up any more questions you may have.

Hillman, J. (2003). Improving comprehension with think-aloud strategies: Modeling what good readers do. New England Reading Association Journal, 39(2), 52-53. Retrieved from

This article explains what good readers do, and that is think aloud.

Morrison, V., & Wlodarczyk, L. (2009). Revisiting read-aloud: Instructional strategies that encourage students' engagement with texts. The Reading Teacher, 63(2), 110-118. Retrieved from

This article expresses how you can get students involved in their reading.

Oster, L. (2001). Using the think-aloud for reading instruction. The Reading Teacher,55(1), 64-69. Retrieved from

This article describes how you can use think aloud strategies for reading instruction.


McKeown, R. G., & Gentilucci, J. L. (2007). Think-aloud strategy: Metacognitive development and monitoring comprehension in the middle school second-language classroom. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 51(2), 136-142,144-147. Retrieved from

Ness, M., & Kenny, M. (2016;2015;). Improving the quality of Think‐Alouds. The Reading Teacher, 69(4), 453-460. doi:10.1002/trtr.1397 Retrieved from

Oster, L. (2001). Using the think-aloud for reading instruction. The Reading Teacher,55(1), 64-69. Retrieved from

Routman, R. (2003). Reading essentials: The specifics you need to teach reading well.

Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Smith, L. A. (2006). Think-aloud mysteries: Using structured, sentence-by-sentence text passages to teach comprehension strategies. The Reading Teacher, 59(8), 764-773. doi:10.1598/RT.59.8.4 Retrieved from