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Teaching Strategies: Think-Alouds

Janelle Cox

Think-aloud teaching strategies are time-tested. These teaching strategies have been used for years to help students learn how to monitor their own thinking. Effective teachers have been using this method for decades, as they model what they are thinking, so students can understand the process of how skilled readers can construct meaning from the text.

The process is simple: The teacher verbalizes what she is thinking as she reads or figures out a problem. In turn, students get a glimpse into the mind of a skilled reader or problem solver.

Here we will take a quick look at why think alouds are important, how to use them in your classroom, and what a great assessment tool they make.

Why are Think-Aloud Teaching Strategies Important?

The think-aloud technique helps students monitor their thinking and understanding of the text. This helps to improve students’ comprehension. As they think aloud, they internalize what they are saying, which helps them learn.

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How to Use Think- Alouds

To begin, you must model this strategy by orally communicating what you are thinking as you read. As you read the text, stop at certain points that may be confusing or challenging for students.

Next, discuss the questions students can say to themselves as they read the text to help support thinking aloud. Questions or such as:

  • So far I have learned …
  • What do I know about this topic?
  • Do I understand what I have just read?
  • This made me think of …
  • What more can I do to understand what I am reading?
  • I think the most important part was …
  • I think __ will happen next.
  • What new information did I just learn?

Allow time for students to practice asking questions aloud to themselves as they read the text. This can be done individually, with a partner, or in a small group.

As a class read the text aloud, while the students follow along in their heads. Stop periodically to think out loud and ask and answer some of the questions above.

Model how skilled readers reread a sentence for clarification, or look back and look for context clues to help them figure something out.

Tips for Students

Help students verbalize their internal thoughts, and build a solid understanding of what they are reading before, during, and after reading a text, by modeling the following statements and questions.

Before Reading:

  • When you first approach a text, ask yourself, “What does the title mean? What does it remind me of? What is the author known for? What do I predict this will be about?

During Reading

  • Throughout your reading, ask questions like, “I am confused by___?” “I do not understand___?” “I like the paragraph about___.” “Why didn’t the character___?”

After Reading

  • Once you have completed the text say to yourself, “I originally thought this but now I think this.”My overall opinion of the book is ___. From this story I learned that____.”

Using Think-Alouds as an Assessment Tool

Teachers can listen as students think aloud and assess their strengths and weaknesses. This strategy can be used to assess students’ problem solving skills in math. Teachers can listen in as students walk through the steps they are using, which will help to assess the strategies the student is using. This allows the teacher to pinpoint if the student is using the strategy effectively and what they need to work on.

A tape recorder is a good tool to use when assessing the think-aloud strategy is in action. Ask students to say everything that they are thinking as they are reading or figuring out a problem. If they forget to talk, then prompt them by saying, “What are you thinking now?” Play back the tape once the student is finished to assess them.

What I have noticed is that the students that visualize, participate by thinking aloud, and are engaged in the text that they read, get more out of the text. Provide students with a wide variety of texts to help them explore this strategy even further. By doing so, students will strive for deeper understanding every time they read.

Do you use the think-aloud strategy in your classroom? Do you have any tips on how to effectively use the strategy? Share with us in the comment section below. We would love to hear your ideas.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.