Think-alouds have been described as "eavesdropping on someone's thinking." With this strategy, teachers verbalize aloud while reading a selection orally. Their verbalizations include describing things they're doing as they read to monitor their comprehension. The purpose of the think-aloud strategy is to model for students how skilled readers construct meaning from a text.
|When to use:||Before reading||During reading||After reading|
|How to use:||Individually||With small groups||Whole class setting|
More comprehension strategies
Why use think-alouds?
- It helps students learn to monitor their thinking as they read and improves their comprehension.
- It teaches students to re-read a sentence, read ahead to clarify, and/or look for context clues to make sense of what they read.
- It slows down the reading process and allows students to monitor their understanding of a text.
How to use think-alouds
- Begin by modeling this strategy. Model your thinking as you read. Do this at points in the text that may be confusing for students (new vocabulary, unusual sentence construction).
- Introduce the assigned text and discuss the purpose of the Think-Aloud strategy. Develop the set of questions to support thinking aloud (see examples below).
- What do I know about this topic?
- What do I think I will learn about this topic?
- Do I understand what I just read?
- Do I have a clear picture in my head about this information?
- What more can I do to understand this?
- What were the most important points in this reading?
- What new information did I learn?
- How does it fit in with what I already know?
- Give students opportunities to practice the technique, and offer structured feedback to students.
- Read the selected passage aloud as the students read the same text silently. At certain points stop and "think aloud" the answers to some preselected questions.
- Demonstrate how good readers monitor their understanding by rereading a sentence, reading ahead to clarify, and/or looking for context clues. Students then learn to offer answers to the questions as the teacher leads the think-aloud.
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Watch: Think Alouds: Modeling Ways to Think About Text
A teacher think aloud is an effective technique to model how to use comprehension strategies before, during, and after reading. See the lesson plan.
Several examples of how teachers can use think alouds to point out connections between prior experiences and stories, and relationships between a story and a larger concept are provided in this article. See example >
This website explores the use of the think aloud strategy with poetry. See example >
for Second Language Learners, students of varying reading skill, and younger learners
- Have students do think-alouds in large or small groups; teacher and other students monitor and help.
- Ask students do think-alouds individually, and then compare with others. Students can write their own commentary.
- Complete, or have students complete, think-alouds orally, in writing, on an overhead, with Post-it notes, or in a journal.
See the research that supports this strategy
Conner, J. (2004). Using Think-Alouds to Improve Reading Comprehension.
Davey, B. (1983). Think-aloud: Modeling the cognitive processes of reading comprehension. Journal of Reading, 27(1), 44-47.
Gold, J., & Gibson, A. (2001). Reading Aloud to Build Comprehension.
Olshavsky, J. E. (1977). Reading as problem-solving: An Investigation of Strategies. Reading Research Quarterly, 12(4), 654-674.
Wilhelm, J. D. (2001). Improving Comprehension with Think-Aloud Strategies. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Children's books to use with this strategy
Abe's Honest Words
A straightforward overview of Lincoln's life is punctuated by Lincoln's words and commanding images. Additional resources for further reading and research are included as are sources used in this unforgettable book.
Impetuous Clementine is concerned that she'll lose her much loved 3rd grade teacher, Mr. D'Matz, when he's recommended to study in Egypt for a year. Clementine cooks up a letter to assure that Mr. D'Matz doesn't get the fellowship. Humor abounds in this third book about spontaneous, likeable, and ultimately honorable Clementine.
Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr. grew up fascinated by big words. He would later go on to use these words to inspire a nation and call people to action. In this award-winning book, powerful portraits of King show how he used words, not weapons, to fight injustice.